Kylee Edwards is a perfectionist. She also works extremely hard at softball and everything she does, so it should come as no surprise that she is among the top ranked players in the 2023 class. As the #7 ranked middle infielder and 48th ranked player overall for Fastpitch Network, Edwards is one of the best shortstops/middle infielders in the country.
The Indiana Magic Gold 16U team are off to a strong start having beaten several of the top teams in the country this season. Head Coach Stephanie Kleiner, who has coached for 15 years, this year merged her team with 5-6 players from another Indiana Magic team and thanks to players like Edwards, the results have been encouraging.
“The team has come together really well,” said Kleiner. “Kylee is a special player and she’s had no problems continuing relationships with the players she came over with, while also making new ones. She’s a team player who leads by example and gets very excited when her teammates make good plays.”
Tim Todd knows the Georgia Fire well. He coached in the organization when his daughter played and continued his involvement even after she graduated and fulfilled her dream of playing college softball. The decades-old organization is based in the Atlanta area and has sent over 350 players on to the next level. However, Todd says success hasn’t translated into a desire for profit and growth.
“We stay small. We do not have 150 teams, and we will never have 150 teams. We are a 100% volunteer board,” he says. “We’re not trying to make money off of uniforms, and we’re not trying to go nationwide.”
The Fire boasts a great deal of experience throughout the organization, and because of its small size, coaches are able to really invest all they’ve learned back into their players.
Ava Conti dominates the pitcher’s circle with confidence and poise – she’s all business, according to her coach Mike Faulstich with Sorcerer Softball. A 5’8” 158lb right-handed pitcher and first baseman from Redwood City, California and Carlmont High School, Conti is known for her tenacity and competitive spirit.
“Ava brings a wealth of experience to Sorcerer,” states Faulstich and “we love her demeanor and controlled fire she plays with.” Conti is ranked as the No. 19 pitcher in the 2023 class, according to Fastpitch Network, and likely to push the rankings this season.
“She refuses to be outworked in anything she does,” states Faulstich, and always working daily on her physical and mental game. Her personal mantra is “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and Conti displays a true grit mentality, competitive spirit, and a sense of determination that is one of a kind.
If you see DaNia Brooks, she likes to keep it simple. She likes to smile and puts a premium on having fun, which drives her and her team on the softball field.
The 15-year-old, rising Junior for the Tampa Mustangs 16U squad primarily plays the hot corner and pitches for her coach Rene Ciccarello Jr., whom she’s played for since 2014.
“She is a remarkable player, and probably the toughest out to get on the field,” said Ciccarello. “You throw her a change up and you wish you didn’t. You throw her a rise pitch and she gets her barrel on it. DaNia has always been a tremendous athlete with incredible strength and hand-eye coordination.”
When you see Emmorie Burke on the field, chances are you’ll see her smiling. The Hotshots’ second baseman loves nothing more than manning the middle infield. Her dad and coach Marty Burke says he’s always glad to see a ball hit her way.
“When I’m in a situation and calling pitches, I’m hoping I’ll get a ground ball to her because I know it’s going to be an out,” he says. “She’s good at turning double plays. That’s her specialty. She has really quick hands.”
“I really like the ball being hit to me so I can make those big plays. I put in a lot of time and effort trying to make my game better so when the time comes, then I can be the one to make that play,” Emmorie says. “Turning double plays is my favorite thing to do because you have to be so quick at it. It’s a challenge, and I love challenges that push me to the next level.”
“She fit right into our group,” said Boteler, who has worked with Lorenz for a few years even before Lorenz joined her team. “She has a lot of potential and she doesn’t even know yet how good she is. She’s pretty humble.”
As a young athlete I never understood why my parents spent majority of the innings I spent competing on the travel and high school softball circuit behind the outfield fence. I accused them of being anti-social and rude. Other parents hung out, had cook outs together, and seemingly more fun on the countless number of out of town weekend softball tournament trips. My parents wanted nothing to do with anything other than watching me compete. They would not engage in what has become sideline madness that plagues the youth sports scene.
Twenty plus years later, and with many years of competing, coaching, and instructing under my belt, I finally understand. Parents are crazy. They are sucking the fun and the many valuable lessons right out of the whole experience for their kids.
Who are these parents?
Red flag #1: They make excuses. If their kid does not play, it is always due to the fault of others. You will hear every excuse in the book. Kids not playing due to politics, mixed messages on instruction and what they have learned from different coaches, so and so’s parents are members of the booster club, the coach hates my kid, blah, blah, blah. The list goes on and on. There is zero accountability or responsibility placed on their kid for potential reasons they are not seeing game time.
Red flag #2: They rip apart other kids. They are quick to point out the flaws of other kids who see more playing time. They compare their kid to others and typically have well prepared arguments highlighting why their darling daughter is a better athlete and more deserving of playing time. An athlete’s teammates are very likely their friends as well. When a parent tries to make her daughter feel better by saying “I don’t know why Jenny always gets to play more innings than you, she makes a ton of errors ”, it is very uncomfortable for her child. You are talking behind the back of their friend and you are destroying the critical trust that teammates need in each other and their coach. Keep your thoughts to yourself.
Red flag #3: Sense of entitlement. These parents will e-mail, text, call, and corner coaches after games questioning playing time. They believe with every ounce of their being that little Susie should be in the game, specifically with a starting role. The rose colored glasses may as well be a blindfold. They do not care or often consider the humiliation they cause for their kid by approaching a coach in this way. Imagine your significant other contacting your boss when you have not received the raise or promotion they think you deserve. There is only one person who looks out for the team in its entirety. The coach. Parents only look out for their child. When parents question coaching decisions, player positions, playing time, tactics, and more, they undermine a coach’s authority, and the players respect for that coach. You teach your kids to question everything a coach tells them, and this makes them indecisive come game time. It also takes their focus off things they can control, like their attitude, their effort, and their focus, and turns it towards uncontrollable like coaching decisions. Yes, your child might have a coach that sees things differently than you do, but so what? If you really know that much more than the coach, you should coach. If you do not have the time or energy to do so, then be thankful someone does and support that person.
Red flag #4: They think dropping money on the sport through private lessons, sports conditioning and specialized training should guarantee playing time. Achieving a high level in sports is not an experience that can be bought. The aforementioned avenues can assist a player in skill development, but consistent results in game situations is the only currency most coaches use when drafting a lineup.
Red flag #5: They believe their kid has more talent or game knowledge than reality proves. Everyone else can see it, but they cannot. Often times these parents expect their kid to compete at a level that is not appropriate for their age or for the amount of time they have been playing the game. There is nothing wrong in owning the fact that your kid is a work in progress.
Red flag #6: They are more invested in the sport than the kid. They believe wholeheartedly that their darling daughter wants to be the best she can be in the sport yet she rarely shows interest in seeking opportunities to practice and improve without prompting from her parents. When kids love something, they will lead the charge. All kids need occasional prompting, but it is the exception to the rule, not the norm.
Red flag #7: They live vicariously through their kid, in a bad way. When the kid plays great, life is good. When they have a bad game, life is bad. These parents outwardly show disgust when their kid does not play well as if it is some sort of reflection on them. They shame their own kid by not talking to them after poor performances, or they will go through a play by play of every mistake during the dreaded car ride home, questioning her actions throughout the game. For the kid, it is a nightmare. Many kids come to believe love, support, and approval from their parents is conditional based on how they perform in a silly game. Parents, please let the conversation on ride home be dictated by your kids, and unless they bring it up, not be about the game.
Red flag #8: They expect instant results. Much of these expectations can be blamed on our culture. We live in a fast food world where true hard work is becoming obsolete. Becoming proficient in any skill requires thousands upon thousands of repetitions. Applying acquired skills in a game situation is another matter entirely. Learning to do both in harmony is an acquired skill that takes years of game experience, practice, and hard work. We expect twelve and under players to handle game pressure the same way we see college players handle it on television.
Red flag #9: They do not understand the reason their kid plays ball. Kids play sports for a multitude of reasons. Some play because they want to be the best. Others play simply to be a part of something and to have a certain identity within their peer group. Sadly, some play to please their parents. No matter what the motivation to start in the first place, the game becomes difficult when it is no longer fun. When kids worry about their parents opinion of them based on game performance, I can assure you that the game becomes more of a chore than a leisure activity. In my experience, when kids stop having fun, their level of success on the field decreases drastically.
Red flag #10: They claim they will never be “that parent”. If a parent says this phrase out loud, they have likely already arrived.
When done right, there are countless life lessons to be garnered through sports. One of the most vital lessons being stripped from youth sports is autonomy. Parents are micro-managing the lives of their children unnecessarily, destroying any opportunity for them to learn how to handle themselves on their own. Instead of mentoring kids how to approach a coach about playing time, parents attempt to negotiate for them. We miss opportunities to teach kids how to ask for constructive criticism, develop a plan of action, and set realistic goals to achieve new heights. We blame coaches who are often volunteers, instead of educating ourselves in the game. With the explosion of social media, there are a countless number of ways to learn new drills and position play. There are thousands of videos that can be viewed over and over again if the thirst for knowledge truly exists. Instead of complaining in the face of adversity, teach kids how to help themselves. They will be better in the game of softball but more importantly, in the game of life.
Parents are supposed to be champions for their kids. Kids look to parents for guidance, support, approval, and love. They also learn how to behave from their parents. Complaining is the easiest and most unproductive thing to do in the face of adversity. Choose to model positive behaviors. Encourage risk taking and find joy in the effort. Celebrate the competitor above the winner. Foster independence by allowing your athlete to take ownership. Be the fan your kid needs you to be.
From the time Jenissa Conway competed in the 2018 PGF National Championship game in 14U, the Sorcerer Softball organization knew they had a very talented and unique player. Whether she was winning games on the mound or at the plate, her talents were obvious to those on the Sorcerer staff.
While Sorcerer coaches are well aware of the special gifts she possesses, her ability to compete at a high level on both sides has started to become more evident to opposing teams and college coaches.