Softball: Not so soft on young ATHLETES

Softball COmmunity

Softball ages back to 1887 and since then has developed into a tight knitted and flourishing community. It has grown into a community where girls can go to the fields and "get away from reality". The dedication and time that this sport requires is indescribable and you have to really love the game to play at a competitive level. These young athletes are the face for this. The fun and intensity they have while playing the game is beyond words. Just watching them can make you want to get up off your seat and go throw a ball around. However, that statement has recently begun to slowly diminish because of the impact of recruiting. The recruiting process has changed drastically over the years, now allowing younger athletes to be recruited to play at the college level. This may sound nice, knowing you will be getting your college somewhat paid for during your freshmen year of high school, but the toll it leaves on young athletes is harsh. The recruiting world has also grown increasingly more competitive leaving less girls with scholarships to their dream schools. This has affected these young athletes more than you think. That same drive and intensity that was once seen on the field is replaced by the fear and pressure to get a scholarship.

Recruiting Process

The chart above is from February 2014. As you can see, even then sophomores were allowed to be recruited with certain conditions. That has recently changed to even younger players. Now eighth and ninth graders are getting recruited and some are verbally committing to a college even before their first day of high school. The NCAA has created rules that try to prevent this from happening, but Blake Toppmeyer says college coaches use "loopholes that don't violate NCAA bylaws" in his article "Softball Players Making College Choices Before Their First High School Games."

What are they striving for?

In Amanda Scarborough's "6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For," she discusses the top characteristics that college coaches look for when recruiting athletes. She lists them to be "1. Versatile/ Athletic, 2. Can produce offensively, 3. Softball savvy, 4. Competitive/ Knows how to win, 5. Good attitude and coachable, and 6. Grades" With as many followers and young athletes that look up to Scarborough, this article was very effective. There is a quote at the end of the article that says "learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you." So many young athletes take this quote and run with it. That isn't such a bad thing but some girls take it too far and put too much pressure on themselves.

Effects on young Athletes

Travel ball softball has become a very competitive sport and young athletes take it seriously. Instead of hanging out with friends on the weekends, travel ball players are usually out on a softball field practicing or playing. If I were to ask a young athlete a couple years ago why she chose to play competitive softball instead of hanging out with friends on a Saturday afternoon, I would most likely get an answer like "because I love softball and I would rather be here." In today's softball world, that has changed to "because I have to." This could have a lot to do with the changed recruiting rules. These thirteen and fourteen year old girls should not be worried about which college coaches will be watching their next game. The pressure of getting recruited have taken a toll of young girls and it is not for the better. Recruiting has taken the fun out of the game for these young athletes. Not only does recruiting put a huge amount of pressure on young athletes, but it also could lead to injury because of overuse. Dr. Pengel discusses this in "Common Overuse Injuries in the Young Athlete." She states "with inadequate recovery time, cellular damage is not completely repaired before the next load is applied." The problem is that "rest" is not in young athletes' vocabulary. They do not want to take the time for their bodies to recover because that is less time they can spend on the field practicing and getting better.

The recruiting world is getting so competitive that today's student athletes are not confident enough in their abilities that they turn to other things such as supplement use. A couple of years ago, if someone were to say a young girl is using a drug to enhance her performance, others would think he/she is crazy. In today's softball world, supplement use is becoming more common and therefore talked about more. In Jill Anne McDowall's "Supplement Use by Young Athletes", she discusses the impact of pressure on young athletes and how it results in supplement use. She states "Generally, females are found to use supplements more frequently and are associated with reasons of health, recovery, and replacing an inadequate diet." Girls are starting to use drugs thinking that it will improve their performance and increase their chances of getting recruited. They start to compare themselves to other girls that are getting recruited and think if they use supplements, they will start looking and performing like the others.

Effects on College Coaches

Not only does early recruiting effect young athletes but it also effects college coaches. In Ken Krause's "Is Softball Recruiting Getting Out of Hand?" he states "Here’s the problem: as long as some coaches are recruiting that early, the rest have to follow. Otherwise, they may find they are left behind in the race for the top players." Coaches are pressured into recruiting younger girls because "everyone else is doing it." If they were to wait until girls got older, they would miss out on recruiting top notch players because most of them are verbally committing their eighth or ninth grade year.

Some college coaches have advocated for a change in these rules because they don't agree with recruiting such young girls. In the book "The Softball Coaching Bible," Jacquie states that "communication seems to be an obvious factor in building and continuing a successful softball program." This could not be truer. If coaches desire a change in the rules, they should communicate and promote for one.

Opportunities Opened up

Softball provides so many opportunities as an athlete grows up. For myself, choosing to play softball was one of the best things that I have done because it provided experiences and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t play. The places that it allowed me to travel and the people I have met because of it have impacted my life and the person I am today. Softball also allowed me to have the chance to play at the college level and I am so thankful for that. I have only been at Marshall for a short amount of time but I have already developed new friendships that I will have forever and being on a Division 1 softball field is an amazing experience. I verbally committed to Marshall my junior year of high school and even I felt the pressure of the recruiting process at sixteen years old. Being recruited is awesome and the possibilities that it opens up are endless, but the pressures that go along with recruiting are also endless. Young girls shouldn’t have to go through that at such a young age. They should be allowed to focus on what dress they will wear to the school dance or what movie they are going to see this weekend, not which college they will spend four years of their life at.

What do college coaches think?

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Photo Essay

Softball is a sport that provides a place where athletes can come together and have fun playing a game they love. The softball community has been my home away from home since I was eight years old. The environment created has a lot to do with the people inside the community. Softball is filled with tons of great people who care about the sport and everyone else playing it. Playing softball has provided me with some of the best friends that I have ever had.

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Annotated Bibliography

• Fader, Mirin. “Coaches Take Aim at Heartache and Hardship of Early Recruiting.” ESPN W, ESPN W, 12 May, 2016, http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/15509558/the-impact-early-recruiting-players-coaches - Mirin Fader discusses the impact recruiting has on young athletes and their families. She provided specific examples from one young player named Giulia Koutsoyanopulos and Amanda Lorenz, a freshmen outfielder for Florida softball. She says “freshmen outfielder Amanda Lorenz, who is batting .401 for No. 1 Florida softball, verbally committed after visiting the university at 14.” This exemplified that not every athlete is affected by the recruiting process. Lorenz is flourishing at Florida and absolutely loves it. However, Fader also talks about how “others may not have as clear vision several years in advance. Big school, small school? Near home, far away? Bustling city, quiet town? Engineering, anthropology?” Most young players don’t have a concrete idea as to what they want to do with their lives or where they want to spend four years at school. She discusses how “many are still maturing physically and emotionally.” This article could be helpful because it provides examples to both sides of the argument and her examples are specific and reputable because they come from players themselves.

• Joseph, Jacquie, and National Fastpitch Coaches Association. The Softball Coaching Bible, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2002.- In this book, Jacquie informs readers of different coaching techniques and ways to deal with young athletes and their families. Throughout the book, she analyzes specific subjects that would be helpful to coaches to focus primarily on. In a particular part of the book, she examines the effect communication has on the softball community. She says "communication seems to be an obvious factor in building and continuing a successful softball program." Without communication, softball would become a big mess that nobody would want to be a part of. This source would be helpful in my essay because I could use it to discuss how communication has diminished in the softball recruiting world over time and its effect on the community as a whole.

• Krause, Ken. “Is Softball Recruiting Getting Out of Hand?” Softball Performance, Life in the Fastpitch Lane, http://www.softballperformance.com/softball-college-recruiting-hand/ - In his article, Ken Krause examines the younger ages that girls are being recruited to play college softball. He leads into this analysis by asking the question "How can a freshmen or sophomore make such an important decision with so little life experience?" Krause explores all the different key elements that are put into deciding where to go to college and says that "kids are under pressure to make a decision. The parents are under pressure to make a decision. It’s a mess." This leads into the second part of his article where he talks about college coaches. Most people think that coaches recruiting younger girls is beneficial but Krause argues and says "what may have seemed like a good idea at the time might not turn out so well by the time that student-athlete graduates in three years." The maturity level from when an athlete starts high school from when they finish is vastly different. Like the kids and families are under pressure to make a decision, college coaches are as well. Krause says "Here’s the problem: as long as some coaches are recruiting that early, the rest have to follow. Otherwise, they may find they are left behind in the race for the top players." This article could be useful in my essay because it provides a one sided viewpoint to look at. Krause gives multiple examples to back up his argument that recruiting younger girls is not beneficial.

• McDowall, Jill. "Supplement Use By Young Athletes," Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 9 January 2007- In this article, McDowall talks about supplement use among young athletes. She says that "Many dietary supplements are highly accessible to young athletes and they are particularly vulnerable to pressures from the media and the prospect of playing sport at increasingly elite levels." She ends her article advocating more education on supplement use saying "Increased education for young athletes regarding supplement use, parents and coaches should to be targeted to help the athletes make the appropriate choices." This information would be effective to include in my essay because it would provide an example of the effects of the pressures of recruiting. Many young athletes are pressured to perform at the highest level and because of the competitive recruiting world, they lose confidence in their own abilities and turn to supplement use.

• Pauline, Jeffrey, Pauline, Gina, Allen, Crystal. "Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education." Taylor Francis Online, 19 July 2013- This journal entry discussed the "factors influencing college selection by NCAA Division I, II, and III softball student-athletes." Throughout the article, the main factors that student-athletes consider when choosing a college were listed as "university offers specific major of interest, academic reputation of university, coach's personality/style, academic facilities, opportunity to play early in career, and graduation rate of athletes." This specific portion of the journal would be beneficial to my claim because it gives the athlete's side of recruiting. It provides information about what an athlete looks for when being recruited by multiple colleges. I give the coaches' opinion but nothing about the athlete. I could use this source to incorporate the athletes perspective when choosing a college and how the level of maturity matters because of the major decisions they would have to make.

• Pengel, K. B. "Common Overuse Injuries in the Young Athlete." Pediatric annals, vol. 43, no. 12, 2014., pp. e297 308doi:http://muezproxy.marshall.edu:2103/10.3928/00904481-20141124-09. - Dr. Pengel discusses the impact of young athletes overusing their bodies. She gives multiple examples that provide evidence that constantly using the same muscles and bones in a specific sport will lead to an injury. In softball specifically, we constantly use an overhead motion with our arm and Dr. Pengel says "Young athletes participating in sports with repetitive overhead motion are at risk for age specific chronic injuries." Causes are obviously from overuse but stress can have an effect as well. Dr. Pengel states “Stress and load can produce adaptive changes in the tissue as long as there is adequate recovery time for the body to repair the cellular damage. However, with inadequate recovery time, cellular damage is not completely repaired before the next load is applied. If this cycle of inadequate recovery time continues, the cellular damage compounds and eventually results in progressive, activity-related musculoskeletal pain with or without impairments of sports performance.” This could be helpful to my essay because I can use it to back up my argument that recruiting puts pressure on young athletes and it can lead to injury.

• Pennington, Bill. "College Hopefuls Reach Out to Recruiting Services." The Athletes Edge, 29 January 2006 - In this article, Bill Pennington examines the use of recruiting services by players and coaches. Recruiting services are online companies that make profiles for athletes to be recruited. Pennington says that "The information is free to college coaches. For a high school player to register for Softball Factory services, it can cost $500 to $5,000." As you can tell from the quote, athletes get the short end of the stick. That amount of money doesn't stop them from using the service either and this could be because of the pressures of recruiting. That is how I could use this in my essay. I could connect the pressures of recruiting to spending way too much money on recruiting services that, half the time, do not even work. Getting recruited is the ultimate goal in mostly all travel ball softball players minds and they will do anything to achieve that goal, even spend godly amounts of money on recruiting services.

• Quinn, Kay. "Young Athletes Sometimes Overdo it: Third Edition." St. Louis Post - Dispatch, Pulitzer, Inc, St. Louis, Mo, 2007. - In Quinn's article, she discusses the pressures of performing on young athletes that lead them to injury. Throughout the article, she provides quotes from Dr. Christopher Rothrock, an orthopedic and arthroscopic surgeon. She states that "In his practice, Rothrock says, he sees two to five young athletes a day complaining of pain." Later in the article Quinn discusses why injuries are so common and Dr. Rothrock states that "many young athletes fear they'll be off the field for weeks, as Nick was, if they complain too loudly about an injury." Coaches now a days are constantly overlooking little injuries which then turn into bigger injuries. This article would be helpful for my essay because it provides another example to the consequences of overuse. It also provides an example of how travel ball coaches are also changing, like recruiting. As recruiting gets more competitive, so do the coaches which doesn’t lead to good things, like injury.

• Scarborough, Amanda. "6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For", Amanda Scarborough, 17 February 2014, http://amanda-scarborough.com/so-what-exactly-are-college-coaches-looking-for/- Amanda Scarborough played for Texas A&M from 2004-2008. During season in 2008, Scarborough injured her foot and later found out it was a Lisfranc fracture that would end her softball career. Her injury did not stop her from participating in softball because she is now "a sports broadcaster, a private pitching coach, co-founded a clothing line, I’m a motivational speaker and I help coach a an 18U Gold tournament team in Houston." One of Scarborough's pages on her blog discusses the six things college coaches look for when recruiting. They are listed to be: "Versatile / Athletic, Can Produce Offensively, Softball Savvy, Competitive / Knows How to Win, Good Attitude & Coachable, and Grades." This information could be helpful for my essay because it provides examples of what young athletes are striving for to get recruited.

• Toppmeyer, Blake. "Softball Players Making College Choices Before Their First High School Games," Columbia Daily Tribune, 30 June, 2014 - In this article Toppmeyer examines the impact of early recruiting on a 14 year old girl named Lauren Rice. He says "Rice decided that more than six months ago when, at 14 years old, she verbally accepted a scholarship offer to play softball for Missouri. She had yet to throw her first pitch of her freshman season for Morrison High School in Illinois." Throughout the second part of the essay Toppmeyer analyzes why so many eighth and ninth graders are verbally committing so early. He says that "coaches and athletes accelerate recruiting by using loopholes that don’t violate NCAA bylaws." This article could be helpful for my essay because it provides another example about how recruiting has changed over the years. It also provides information about how college coaches are not following NCAA rules and not getting caught for it.

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Reflective piece

Throughout this course, I have thoroughly learned how to demonstrate specific learning objectives that will benefit me in the future. For example, while working on Essay #1, we used Adobe Spark and Atavist which required us to work with digital writing instead of paper. This improved not just our writing but also our creativity. This helped us attend to issues of audience, purpose and rhetorical context because we had to incorporate pictures and videos that would benefit our arguments. Not only did we have to find pictures and videos that would be effective for our arguments but they also needed to be interesting and we had to think about our audience and subject. Using a digital writing platform also required us to choose a theme that would best convey our argument to the audience. While doing all of this, we had to make sure it connected with the subject and argument of our essay (purpose). The sources we used in our essay also contributed to this ability because we had to find credible, interesting sources that would connect with our argument. This was sometimes a struggle but it helped us develop and broaden this ability. In this class, we also have developed the ability to reflect on our own writing and research because we have been required to do reflective pieces every time we write an essay. When doing a reflective piece, we are directed to think about our writing and research and ask what is good about it and what could get better. Asking these questions could also help with the essay because reviewing the weaknesses could help future essays become stronger. After analyzing these main points, we then are instructed to think about what things we struggled with while writing the essay and how we could have made these struggles easier. Most of the time, the struggles came from finding effective and credible sources to use in our writings.

While writing my advocacy essay, I struggled with sources. Finding sources that were credible and fit my argument was tough because there wasn't much information on this subject from scholars. However, when I found my sources, finding where they fit into my essay was simpler for me.

WOrks CIted (images)

  • "Oklahoma Edge", Oklahoma Edge Softball Association, https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi8raGuoN3QAhVB5SYKHVhEDVgQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.okedgesoftball.org%2F&psig=AFQjCNHoeyNyfZg4if5np3Td-NrDRiOFwA&ust=1481034167087309
  • "NCAA Recruiting Rules", Collegiate Soccer Academy,http://collegiatesocceracademy.com/blog/2014/2/26/understanding-ncaa-recruiting-rules
  • "Softball", Pittsylvania County, VA, https://pittsylvaniacountyva.gov/452/Softball
  • Martukovich, Don. "Marshall Softball", Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/don.martukovich/photos?lst=100009665743319%3A100001986934465%3A1481057175&source_ref=pb_friends_tl

Credits:

Created with images by 3lilapples - "softball baseball ball" • feeferlump - "0099" • cherylholt - "softball catcher ball" • keijj44 - "softball team girls players" • martajozsa - "marshall university west virginia college" • cherylholt - "girl player ball"

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