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11 Reasons to Play School Ball

By: Cindy Bristow

Depending on where you live high school softball may not be as competitive as the travelball team you’re used to. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play for your school. See if you agree with the 11 reasons I have for playing school ball.

Fastpitch Softball Free Article on why you should play school ball - high school sofball jr. high softball

Are you struggling with whether you should play softball for your high school team or not? If so then read my 11 reasons for doing so and see if they change your mind.

I’m always asked by travel ball players and their parents whether I think they should play school ball or not. The reason most of them give for not wanting to play is they feel that school ball isn’t as good as travel ball.  That might be so in some cases, while in other cases the local high school softball team is a machine.

No matter how good your local high school team is I’m a big proponent for playing high school ball, and I’ll give you 11 reasons why, in a minute. But in the meantime, I want to defend high school coaches for 2 reasons:

  1. High school softball can’t search the state to find the best players as most travel ball teams do.
  2. In most cases the coaches work extremely hard at improving themselves. I speak at lots of coaching clinics in the course of a year and by far, the coaches in the audience are high school coaches. In fact, high school coaches outnumber travel ball coaches 4-1 in their hunger for learning through either attending clinics or purchasing online training. I’m not trying to be mean with this statement but simply stating what I see on a year in and year out basis.

OK, with that said let’s get to my 11 reasons for Playing High School Softball:

  1. School Pride! – You get to play for your school, wear your school colors and compete on behalf of your school against other schools. There’s an excitement in doing this that you don’t get on your traveball team.
  2. Be a Part of Your School Athletic Program – While there might be other teams in your summer ball organization, they just play softball. When you play for your school, you become a part of ALL the teams that also play for your school. Athletes have something in common simply by playing for their school, and this connection is something you don’t have in travel ball.
  3. May be Only Time in Your Life You Can Play for Your School – While most softball players have dreams of playing college softball, the reality is that many won’t. That means high school could be the only time in your life you play for your school. There’s definitely something emotional about competing for your school by wearing your school name and colors against other schools. For many softball players, high school will be the last (and possibly only) time they’ll have this opportunity!
  4. Possibly be a Part of Some Big Rivalries – While there are no doubt some very big tournaments in travel ball, there usually aren’t many big rivalries. That’s another cool thing about school ball. Every school as an arch rival about whom they dislike and against whom they summon up more emotion. These rivalries are an exciting part of sports and are something that every athlete should get to experience.
  5. Play with Your School Friends – Lots of softball players have grown up going to school with the same kids and high school provides a great opportunity to play softball with those friends. Sure, that sounds more social than travel ball but a HUGE reason that many girls play softball is for the social aspect. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to play with your friends – it’s why adult softball leagues are so popular.
  6. Get to Play Another Position You Don’t Get to Play During travel ball – I think a HUGE advantage of playing school ball is that you can possibly either learn to play another position or else get more playing time at your second position. Of course this all depends on the makeup of your school team but it’s certainly an option that you need to consider as versatility makes you more valuable for future teams.
  7. Get a Lot of Playing Time – This one might not seem so obvious at first but the potential for a lot of playing time is a huge advantage that school ball has over travel ball. Typically travel ball games are played on time limits while school ball isn’t. School softball games go the full 7 innings which, unless you get to the finals of a major tournament, just doesn’t happen in summer ball. In addition, if you’re a pitcher on a travel ball team chances are your team has a couple good pitchers so you’re each getting to pitch about 3-4 innings a game. That’s not a lot of pitching over the course of a summer. And yet on your high school team you may be the ONLY pitcher, which means you’re throwing every inning of every game. That’s a fantastic opportunity to work on your endurance, additional pitches, different pitch combinations and generally improve your game.
  8. Exposure to Another Coaching Style – Learning how to take instruction from different coaches is like learning how to follow directions from different bosses – its part of life. Always playing for the same coach doesn’t broaden your horizons much so playing school ball can give you exposure to a different teaching style and temperament – both of which are great ways for you to expand yourself as a player.
  9. Possibility to be a Leader -  While you may not be a leader on your travel ball team, playing on your school team just might give you that opportunity. If you play a lot of travel ball and your skills are greater than your school ball teammates, they’re going to look to you for direction. Becoming a leader is a tremendous skill that will serve you well throughout your life and school ball just might give you the chance to develop this part of yourself.
  10. Learn Patience with your Teammates – Since your teammates may not have quite the skill level that you do school ball is a wonderful opportunity to develop patience. Just because someone is bad doesn’t mean they want to be, or that they aren’t trying. Sometimes the very best we can do is not very good. So instead of getting mad and rolling your eyes and distancing yourself from your teammates when they struggle, try instead to encourage them. Practice being the person you’d like see if it was YOU making that same mistake. Instead of yelling at them let them know “it’s ok, now our plays at 2nd”, or “don’t worry, we’ve got your back”. Being patient and offering encouragement is what quality teammates do and school ball can offer you an opportunity to really improve both of these qualities!
  11. Enjoy Softball – Chances are if you’ve played travel ball very long then you’re familiar with pressure and tension from all directions. Coaches feel pressure, parents feel pressure and without a doubt, the players feel pressure. So much of this pressure and tension comes from the fact that everyone nowdays seems to be playing travel ball simply to get a scholarship. It seems like LONG gone are the days when people played softball because they loved playing softball. Well school ball offers you a fantastic opportunity to play softball because you love playing softball. It can bring the FUN back into the game by helping remove a lot of the pressure and relieve a lot of the tension that seems to surround travel ball. Softball is a game and games should be fun – no matter how important that game is, you’re going to play it at a much higher level if you enjoy what you’re doing. Dreading things, trying not to make mistakes, worrying about every single little error is not a relaxed mind frame and sure isn’t a very fun place to be. I’m not saying that anyone playing softball for their school doesn’t want to win, of course you do. But what I am saying is that for the first time in a very long time, when you play school ball you’ll remember how much fun you used to have playing softball!

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  1. these are great!! I would add one more in that in high school, you have to play 7 innings not the 1 hour 30 minute timed games that you play in the summer. Some players dont have a clue what they are getting in college when they have to go 7 innings against good teams who can foul the ball off and run that pitch count up and games can go 2 hours plus!!!

    Comment by Dave Leffew — September 20, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  2. Thanks for the article!

    #7 is huge. I still do not understand how playing a 4, 3, or 2 inning game helps a girl become a better softball player. The time limits are only there so that tournament directors can get more teams and more entry fees. There is a huge difference in playing these mini games and a full game.

    HS coach, Club Coach, Parent, etc.

    Comment by Greg — September 20, 2011 @ 9:12 am

  3. Great list. There is one thing that I would add. In travel ball you could lose a game or take a game off mentally in pool play and still win the tournament or not play well at a tournement and there will be another one next weekend. High School ball teaches you that every game is important. Each sets you up for the state tournament or league championships. In high school ball you have to play even if you have a big assignment or did poorly on test.It is an important lesson to learn if you intend to play at the next level. Also for life. There is not always a second chance and you must concentrate and do your best under difficult circumstances.

    Comment by Scott Scalf — September 20, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  4. Issue is most HS coaches are clueless when it comes to softball around here. There also the summer baseball coach looking for another $3500.00. I know this sounds condescending but its real and as for pitching uhg….In our conference there are 2 pitchers out of 8 teams you gain AB’s and play time sort of but…

    I do agree with you dont get the athletes as here HS ball is in spring and has too much compettion from other sports for players

    former HS coach, 13 year Hs coach

    Comment by coach — September 20, 2011 @ 10:12 am

  5. This is a great article, and I hope parents and coaches can pass it on to the players thinking of not playing for their HS team. My daughter plays a rigorous travel ball schedule, giving up much of her social life during the summer. HS ball has enabled her to generate more friends through the girls on her team and those in school who come to the games. She’s a leader on her HS team and is recognized for her abilities which created a greater appreciation for playing softball.
    Plus, my daughter has been able to learn another position, which has boosted interest from college coaches.
    Thanks for another great article!

    Comment by Fastpitch Dad — September 20, 2011 @ 11:00 am

  6. Of course, it would be nice if these 11 reasons were always accurate. They are NOT. There are a vast amount, well more than a majority, of high schools coaches in our state who are idiots, and who are self-important jerks who are simply unqualified. They are in their softball coach spots for the extra money they get paid. I have to rebuild the players every summer that these clowns annihilate the confidence of every spring. There are precious few high schools that will actually provide a constructive softball program. I have personally encouraged numerous good players to skip it. And these are players who are in college playing now. School ball has to be worth it, and far far too often it is not.

    Comment by Mark — September 20, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  7. I LOVE this! I used to coach both Travel and High School ball, and truly saw the value of each. What I really loved about High School ball was playing “for the front of the jersey”. Travel is a a great way, the best way, get exposed to college coaches. Too many see this as making Travel necessarily superior. I feel this makes the experience of playing softball pretty egocentric – what can the game do for ME? When you play HS ball, it is about representing something BIGGER than ME. If you are at a HS with a great softball tradition, you represent generations of excellence and achievement. If your HS is a struggling program, you can be a part of making it better. And in all HS programs, you play for your school. I always LOVED coaching HS ball, and was never comfortable with the almost snobbish attitude that some travel players/parents/coaches had toward it. GREAT ARTICLE!

    Comment by Paul O'Brien — September 20, 2011 @ 11:31 am

  8. Very timely article Cindy.

    With the economy like it is I’m hearing about more players who’s parents can’t afford travel ball right now so they’re even going back to rec. They obviously want to keep playing but just need to tone it down. Another reason school sports is so valuable. Now let’s make sure our schools quit cutting back their sports.

    Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Mike Davis — September 20, 2011 @ 11:55 am

  9. As both a high school and travel ball coach, I cannot accept the ideas of “Mark” as even remotely acceptable. He calls the sometimes ignorant high school coaches “self-important jerks.” Most of these “self-important jerks” are career teachers who enjoy more than anything the excitement of seeing children achieve new goals. If anything, they are “greater good” focused more than selfishly motivated and if that is their fault, good for them. In my experience, the travel-ball ranks are filled with many more self-serving, egotistical personalities (even though knowledgable) than the high school ranks. I have never told any of my players, high school or travel, my negative perceptions of other teams’ coaches or programs. Talk about “self-important,” Mark.

    Comment by Coach Chuck — September 20, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

  10. Another one is your experiences at high school will last a lifetime and make good memories. Your roots are there. Travel ball is only temporary. The more involved in high school the more you get out of it.

    Comment by Steve — September 20, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  11. Well well, here we have travel ball coaches saying just how bad we high school coach’s are, and that we do it for the money. Last year as a high school coach I made about 50 cents an hour. We coach 5 day’s a week from early Sept. to the end of May. I like to see you travel ball guy’s to that. Most of the time all you guys do is complain about us. When was the last time you tried to work with your high school coach? Most of you have daughters who are not good enough to make a team so you start one yourself, just so you daughter could play. Than as so called “travel ball” coaches you complain when they don’t play in school ball programs.

    Comment by Dana Cox — September 20, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  12. I LOVE #10… as I was reading, I kept waiting for a reason like this! It is so important to learn what being on a team really means- picking your teammates up whether they are good or bad! Being on a team that’s… struggling… can also make you appreciate a travel team that doesn’t struggle. Everyone needs to struggle at some point in their career!!

    Comment by Stephanie — September 20, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  13. I like your article, and agree with it to an extent. My daughter will be a Sr. this year and has been pitching on varsity since her freshman year and has made all district teams the last 2 years. She also plays club ball full time. She was able to commit to play in college as a junior. Every spring, she gets more and more depressed in the sport from playing high school ball and the coaching interaction (unforunately, it is mostly negative). The only motivation she keeps is the anticipation of club ball. Her high school has SB 1st period all through fall, and 2-a-days every day in the spring (1st period, and after school on non game days). She gets burnt out. So in this case, your #11 is reversed. High school takes the fun out of the game. At the end of the year last year, she told the coach she wanted to take the fall off from SB w/the school and try out in the spring. She needed a break and wanted to enjoy some of her Sr. year. Coach told her not to come back if she didn’t participate in off season in the fall. I wish she could play her Sr. year, but understand why she does not. Disappointing for the player and parent, but she still plays club, and her college offer is still good. Definitely coaches prerogative, but doesn’t do anything for player or team morale or motivation.

    Comment by Ang — September 20, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  14. I agree that high school ball is great in giving you the opportunity to be a part of your school. School spirit can do a lot for a kid’s academics as well. Feeling a part of something as big as a high school can help keep you from getting lost in the shuffle.
    Also, in most cases it is a great opportunity to pad your stats. If you are a good pitcher or hitter, chances are you won’t see the same level of competition that is in the regular season. Now, granted, not everyone gets a chance to play as often as they feel they should…

    Comment by FastpitchGloves — September 20, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  15. We could all expound on the good and bad of travel ball, club ball, school ball, etc. but players don’t really get better if they are not playing. Both school ball and travel ball contribute. See Coach Candrea’s comments in the latest ASA newsletter on coaching.
    Also playing in front of larger crowds in high School is a great learning experience.
    Adapting to different coaching styles is important. Another big one is learning to adapt to teammates at different levels of experience which helps players learn to contribute in other ways besides their play.

    Comment by Greg — September 20, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  16. @Mark

    Anyone who believes that a high school coach takes a team for the stipend is pretty much disqualified from making any further comments that may be taken seriously. The average stipend works out to less than $2 per hour (not counting gas money and extra expenses a high school coach incurs). Please do some research and soul-searching as to why you are REALLY putting down these coaches…

    Comment by Ted — September 21, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  17. Thank you Coach Chuck and Ted! There are a few posts here that have missed the point. I too am a high school and travel coach. As a high school coach I have experienced on numerous occasions players leaving my practices to go to their travel team practices. As a travel coach, I do not practice or play once the high school season begins and the travel program does not begin practicing again until after the 1st of the year as I believe the kids need a break from softball and it gives them an opportunity to play other sports (high school or travel). Cindy’s 11 reasons (and there are many more) are spot on. Now I encourage my players to play summer ball (have it be with me or another team)to hone their skills for the next season not the other way around. To many times summer “coaches” promise they will get the kid a college scholarship just to get them to play on his/her team. Oh! It will only cost the parents $2,000 or $3,000. Parents and summer “coaches” need to think of the kid first and worry about the burn-out factor. Playing year round is not good for anyone even the pros take time off and they get paid to play.
    I hope that the travel “coaches” get a grip and realize it is not about them and ALL about the kids! Just let the kids play!

    Comment by Dave — October 4, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  18. Our high school may be the exception, but it the coaches here are dedicated individuals who go way above and beyond. One example, paying their own way to attend Mike Candrea’s coaching clinic in Arizona. Another, working Monday through Saturday with the HS team and then giving up their Sunday afternoons to hold coaching clinics for parents that are coaching rec ball, or to hold pitching clinics for rec ball pitchers. Taking time to work with my daughter who is an eighth grader, allowing her to join the HS off season workouts. Working to create coaching consistency in the rec program and travel programs and HS program, creating a sense of community between all three.

    They are in their second season since taking over a terrible program and are starting to turn it around. They have a long term vision, realizing that helping 7,8,9,10+ year olds have a great softball experience and good fundamental training will pay big dividends in the high school program years from now.

    My daughter plays travel ball hoping to become a good enough player to make the high school team.

    Comment by Robin — April 5, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  19. What does a parent do when we would like our kid to play school ball but the coach is only in it for themself and their kid? My daughter’s high school Varsity coaches have their travel ball girls play. If you’re not on their travel ball team you sit or are sent down to the JV team. More playing time, yes, however these JV coaches don’t know the first thing about coaching or softball. Just like travel ball, it’s all politics and who you rub elbows with. It’s gotten to the point where our daughter wants to give up softball because of the politics played by these high school coaches. Sad really.

    Comment by Keith — June 25, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

  20. another way to get the 11 benefits is to play another sport at your high school and play softball on your club team.

    plus, especially if you are a pitcher, it allows another kid to pitch for the high school team which is probably more fair.

    you also get the benefit of cross training, less burnout, and a time to heal your body.

    back in the stoneages, in texas, there was a UIL rule that you could not play select/club ball and play for your high school in any sport.

    i miss those days. i’m not sure that wasn’t the right approach

    Comment by bryan — March 12, 2014 @ 11:02 am

  21. Great points Bryan!! Thanks for sharing…

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — March 12, 2014 @ 11:13 am

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