|By: Anthony LaRezza - Head Coach, Immaculate Heart Academy
Provided by: NFCA
We as coaches constantly preach words such as sacrifice and dedication, and on an everyday basis we talk about teamwork.
I have coached at both the high school and summer ball level for the past 20 seasons and what I preach in high school goes out the window in the summer.
In high school, you are with your team every day, working toward that common goal of winning a state championship. The season consists of peaks and valleys, smooth sailing and speed bumps, but I assure you after every game and practice I am stressing the importance of the team.
Travel ball has taken that equation out of the picture. In today's world, kids are not looking for the best team per se. They are looking for what the team can do for them, as opposed to vice versa.
Parents are so enthralled with scholarships that kids jump from team to team at an alarming rate, with the promise of a summer coach getting them exposure.
Showcases have added to the problem. Kids come out of high school where it seems that every game mattered, to a travel ball season where if you go 5-0 or 0-5 it doesn't matter. There is no championship, just games. Now, teams just showcase players instead of playing team softball.
After speaking to a lot of college coaches, they agree. They want to see a kid get up in the seventh inning with the game on the line. Not in a showcase format, but if you win you move on and if you lose you go home. College coaches want to see how the pitcher, hitter and fielders will react in those situations.
When they get to college there is no showcasing. All showcase format does is protect us from failure. When playing at the highest level, there is going to be failure and lots of it. Coaches want to see how they handle and come back from it.
Fifteen years ago I use to love coaching high school and travel ball. I still love coaching high school, but the travel season has put a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully we'll start to get back to the way it was.
Pennsbury and Team NJ summer events now play to a winner. That is great. I hope more tournament directors follow suit.
But until then, in my eyes high school softball is paramount. Where the lineups are made with the team in mind, not just the individual. Where state championships are crowned, not just bracket winners.
The author has won more than 300 games at Immaculate Heart Academy. He is also a coach and president of the Akadema Elite travel ball organization, as well as a member of the NFCA's High School Top 25 and High School All-American & Coaching Staff of the Year committees.