There is nothing more gut-wrenching than to see your daughter get
injured in sports. Some may assume that because softball is not a
rough-and-tumble sport that injuries are less likely than in a sport
like basketball or soccer.
Let’s set the record straight. Softball is not a sport for sissified
young ladies. Girls get injured playing softball all the time. I’ve
seen knee over-extensions, tweaked ankles, ball bruises and injuries,
even broken bones.
My daughter played catcher during most of her softball career and I
would cringe every time someone slid into home. She got knocked over and
run into often, and, fortunately for her, she was able to stand her
ground most of the time and guard the plate. But often, it was not a
So if you’re considering softball as a sport for your daughter because
it somehow seems “safer,” think again. According to Safe Kids USA—
a national network of organizations working to prevent childhood
injury— the top five sports for injuries are: Baseball/ softball
Basketball Football Hockey Lacrosse
You want a safe sport? Maybe try ping-pong or chess or golf!
When you sign your daughter up for softball, you are also signing her up
for the possibility of injury. It’s just part of the game.
However, don’t let that stop you from signing on the dotted line. Your
daughter will spend more of her softball playing time injury-free than
she will on the bench recovering. And there are steps you and your
daughter can take to help prevent injuries.
Help Prevent Injuries by Being AWARE
Sports safety is a number one concern for most sports parents. It's a
fact of life that athletes get hurt when playing sports. But there are
ways to help prevent injuries.
They are simple ways, really. Not rocket science. But the problem is,
even though sports parents and athletes know these common-sense
guidelines, they still forget to practice them. Let's make it easy: just
remember to be AWARE:
Always warm up
Wear protective gear
Avoid playing when injured or in pain
Rest Eat right and exercise
Always Warm Up
Warming up is never a waste of time. Muscles that have been stretched
and warmed up are less likely to be injured. My kids tend to be
tight-muscled, and when they skip the pre-game or pre-practice
stretching, they often suffer for it.
Dr. Peggy Malone, a chiropractor and athlete who helps athletes overcome
“A five- to ten-minute warm-up gets blood pumping to your muscles and
soft tissues and warms up your musculoskeletal system. As your body
generates heat, your connective tissues soften and become more pliable
and are than less likely to get injured.”
She warns that the No. 1 reason athletes get injured is that they
disobey the rule of the Terrible Toos.
Malone explains: “If you push your training too much, too fast, too
soon, you will end up injured. This rule is especially relevant for
beginners, anyone who has just come back to a sport after months or
years off, and anyone who has been injured in the last three to six
Your daughter’s coach should spend plenty of time with team warm-ups.
If he or she doesn’t, be sure your daughter warms up on her own before
practices and games.
Wear and Use the Right Equipment
Your daughter is not a wimp for wearing protective gear. If she needs
ankle braces, a mouth guard, a face mask (for playing the infield or
pitching), then be sure she is equipped with the proper protection.
There’s nothing worse than playing in shoes that have no grip or
don’t fit right or are really worn down.
There’s nothing worse than playing in shoes that have no grip or
don’t fit right or are really worn down.
Once you’ve decided what equipment she needs to wear, make sure you
have the right gear for your daughter’s needs. There’s a lot of
glitz and hype when it comes to marketing sports equipment. Do your
homework and choose what is best for your daughter. It is recommended
that sports shoes be replaced every six months or every five hundred
miles. There's nothing worse than playing in shoes that have no grip or
don't fit right or are really worn down.
Having the right sports equipment not only protects your daughter, but
it also gives her confidence as she plays. Be sure you get help from a
professional in choosing the best equipment for your daughter. We were
always careful about getting the proper equipment for our catcher
dauaghter. We never scrimped on her safety.
Avoid Playing When Injured or in Pain
Pain indicates a problem. You must help your daughter learn to heed
warning signs from her body. Of course, if the pain is the result of a
specific injury and it persists, it should be checked out by a doctor.
There may be times when it is a minor injury and the doctor says it is
okay to play if she can take the discomfort. When my daughter heard the
doctor say that, she always played, disregarding the pain. As long as
the doctor says playing on it will not cause any more damage, then it is
really a choice for your daughter to make as to whether she can stand to
play with the pain.
Athletes with many consecutive days of training have more injuries. Many
athletes think that the more they train, the better they'll play. But
rest is a critical part of proper training. Rest can make your daughter
stronger and prevent injuries from overuse, fatigue, and poor judgment.
There's a reason for the weekend.
If your daughter uses a particular muscle group, like a pitcher uses her
arm and shoulders, then encourage her to ice after every practice or
game, even if it is not bothering her. It is preventative maintenance.
Eat Right and Exercise
Nutrition and hydration play a huge part in your athlete's performance.
Don't let her load up on junk food or heavy meals before games (more on
this in Chapter 2). Research shows that eating a combination of
carbohydrates and protein within a sixty-minute window after very
strenuous exercise helps repair muscles damaged during the activity and
begins to replenish the muscles' energy stores.
What about the Off-season?
Working in the off-season can also help prevent sports injuries. The
hard work of playing softball does not begin when the season does. It
starts in the off-season. Training and conditioning can prevent
injuries, and your daughter should not expect the sport itself to get
her into shape.
Some experts suggest that athletes do several athletic activities to
strengthen a variety of muscles. If not, muscles that your daughter does
not use in one activity can get weaker, which could lead to an injury.
When my husband coached high school softball, he was glad to see the
softball girls playing basketball the season before. He knew they were
staying in shape. If your daughter only plays softball, encourage her to
try cross training.
“Cross training helps manage muscle imbalances by including other
athletic activities that will stretch and strengthen the whole body,”
says Malone. “Cross training should include strength and flexibility
Will You Panic or Be Prepared?
No matter how much your daughter trains or how much protection she has,
she may still get injured. The question is, when that happens, will you
When you head to her game, you probably have a mental checklist. Water
bottle: check. Band-Aids: check. Extra socks: check. Sports equipment:
check. But are you prepared if she should get injured in the game? Or
will panic take over? Plan ahead.
Like expectant parents who plan ahead for a quick trip to the hospital,
sports parents should be prepared in case they too have to make an
emergency trip to the hospital or clinic. Planning ahead when you can
think clearly instead of waiting for an emergency when you may not be so
level headed will save your time and sanity.
How to Prepare. These are the ways you can be prepared if your child is
injured in sports:
Have health insurance information handy. For most people, this is a card
that they carry in their wallet.
Identify now which doctor/ hospital/ clinic is compatible with your
group health insurance so there will be no hesitation about where to go.
Extra snacks/ drinks. Since you’re bringing drinks to the game, bring
an extra one, along with a couple of granola bars or small snack. ER
waits can be looooong.
Book to read. Carry an extra one in the car for you and your child. ER
waits can be boring.
A parent/ friend who will take other siblings home if needed. It’s
always good to identify at least one parent on the team whom you feel
comfortable asking for help.
Phone numbers of people who need to be notified. You will most likely
have these in your phone.
Always keep THE LIST with you: immunizations, date of last tetanus,
medications taking, former hospital visits, medication allergies,
pediatrician’s phone number and address. Either write the information
on a card and stick it in your wallet or keep it on your phone.
Many injuries can be prevented with proper preparation, but in sports
you can always expect the unexpected. No one plans to get hit in the
head or slammed in the chest with a softball. But these things happen,
over and over again. If you are prepared, you can concentrate on your
daughter, not on what you need to bring or do.
The Road to Recovery
For an athlete who truly loves to play the sport, getting injured is one
of the hardest detours she will ever take. Injuries are not the end,
although kids often feel they are because they live so much in the
Over the years of being a coach’s wife and sports mom, I’ve seen
many kids get injured, even miss a season or a year, yet come back even
stronger. But detours are never fun. A detour takes us on a different
path than we planned. Sometimes it is a longer path and feels like it is
I remember one detour we took last summer on our cross-country move from
California to Florida. We were somewhere in Indiana, I think, and we
were forced on a detour that took us two hours out of our way. Or maybe
we misunderstood the detour and got lost! That’s another thing about
detours. Sometimes when you are taking them, you get lost because you
don’t follow the signs correctly.
The same thing can happen when an athlete takes a sports injury detour.
It is one of those times in life when she can either follow the detour
and get safely back on the path, or she can get lost and not find her
way back. With your help and support, she will not get lost and can
learn some very valuable life lessons as she detours. What can she
What it really means to be a team player. When your child is benched for
an injury, encourage her to support her teammates. Since she cannot
contribute as a player in the game, she may feel like she is not part of
the team. But her support will build team spirit and help her focus and
move past her own troubles.
To work toward a goal and not give up
The injury detour could include going down a path of rehabilitation that
seems ridiculously long, and may even feel like it will never end. It
will mean sitting out until the doctor says “all clear,” even when
your athlete feels she’s ready to go.
Coming back from an injury is hard work. You not only have to strengthen
what was injured, you have to get back in shape and catch up to your
team mates. This is a great opportunity for your athlete to learn
patience and persistence. Encourage her not to give up just because
it’s hard. Straying from the injury detour path of proper treatment—
which will eventually guide her safely back to her athletic path—
could result in a worse injury or a re-injury.
Keep Your Daughter Safe from Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, injuries are not the only dangers facing our softball
daughters. The threat of sexual abuse is very real in the world and has
been in the news a lot lately. It is no longer just “stranger
danger” that we need to worry about, because studies show that most
sexual abuse is done by someone the child knows and the parents trust.
It’s very tragic to me that we as sports parents have to even be
concerned about this issue. But unfortunately we do, because, as we’ve
learned through painful stories in the news, coaches are often among the
The best way to protect your daughter from sexual abuse in sports is to
educate her about her body and tell her to inform a trusted adult if
someone speaks to her or touches her inappropriately.
I asked ** Jill Starishevsky, prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes
in New York City, about this very important topic. Jill says that
parents should inquire whether background checks are performed for the
coaches and find out what those checks include. They should also notice
how the coach acts. “Are there red flags in their mind?” she asks.
“Is the coach hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with, or
holding a child even when the child doesn’t want this contact or
attention? Ask your child to talk with you or a safety zone person if
this happens to them or to a friend.”
Starishevsky suggests these talking points when you discuss the matter
with your daughter:
Safety in numbers. Find out what the policy is for one-on-one contact.
Organizations can limit or eliminate the opportunity for abuse if there
is a policy requiring a third person to be present (whether it is an
adult or another child). In a sport such as tennis where there may not
be a third person, parents should consider being present for the
Safe touching vs. unsafe touching. Have a discussion with your child
about what types of touching are appropriate in that particular sport.
With a contact sport such as football or wrestling, be explicit about
what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Teach your child to come to
you and ask questions if she is uncertain. Discuss whether there are
other touches that you have not addressed.
Use a broad brush. While parents may have concerns about protecting
their child from a coach, they should keep in mind that other children
can be perpetrators of sexual abuse against a child as well. All lessons
should apply to anyone who might touch the child inappropriately,
whether adult or child.
No secrets.Period. Encourage your children to tell you about things that
happen to them that make them feel scared, sad, or uncomfortable. If
children have an open line of communication, they will be more inclined
to alert you to something suspicious before it becomes a problem. The
way to effectuate this rule is as follows: if someone, even a
grandparent, were to say something to your child such as "I'll get you
an ice cream later, but it will be our secret," firmly, but politely
say, "We don't do secrets in our family." Then turn to your child and
say, "Right? We don't do secrets. We an tell each other everything"
Secrecy is the most powerful weapon in a child abuser's arsenal.
Identify a “safety zone” person. Teach your children that they can
come to you to discuss anything, even if they think they will get in
trouble. Convey to them that you will listen with an open mind even if
they were doing something they should not have been doing. However, if
they feel uncomfortable talking to you, help them establish a “safety
zone” person. This person can be a neighbor, family member, religious
official, or anyone whom your child feels comfortable confiding in
should something happen to them and they are reluctant to discuss it
with you. The safety zone person should be advised that they have been
chosen and should be instructed to discuss the situation with the
parents in a timely manner. Keep in mind that child predators often
“entice” their prey with something inappropriate such as allowing a
child to watch an adult movie or miss school, or letting them smoke a
cigarette or drink alcohol. Children will often be reluctant to tell
about inappropriate touching for fear they will get in trouble for the
drinking or missing school. Explain to children that if someone
touches them inappropriately, they should tell the parent or the safety
zone person, even if they did something that they were not allowed to
Teach your child the correct terms for their body parts. This will make
them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them
feel uncomfortable. Teaching children only the nicknames for their
private parts can delay a disclosure. An 11-year-old who only knows the
term hoo hoo for her vagina may be embarrassed to tell someone if she is
touched there. If a 5-year-old tells her busy kindergarten teacher
that the janitor licked her cookie, the teacher might give the child
another cookie, not realizing she just missed a disclosure.
Practice “what if” scenarios. Say to your daughter, “What would
you do if someone offered you a treat, or a gift when I wasn’t
there?” Help your child arrive at the right answer, which is to say
no, and ask you first. Many parents also encourage children to walk or
run away in this situation if the person is a stranger. Parents should
note that giving a child a gift and asking them to keep it a secret is a
very common step in the process of grooming a child for sexual abuse.
Teach children to respect the privacy of others. Children should learn
to knock on doors that are shut before opening them and close the door
to the bathroom when they are using it. If they learn to respect the
privacy of others, they may be more likely to recognize that an invasion
of their privacy could be a red flag meaning danger.
Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection.
Children should not be forced to hug or kiss if they are uncomfortable.
Even if the person requesting affection is her favorite aunt, uncle, or
cousin, your child should not be forced to be demonstrative in her
affection. While this may displease you, by allowing your child to make
this decision for herself, you will empower her to say no to
Teach children that no means no.Teach your daughter that it is OK to say
no to an adult. Without permission from you, many children may be
reluctant to do so even if the adult is doing something that makes them
feel uncomfortable. Teach children that all of these lessons apply to
children as well. If another child is touching your child in a way
that makes her uncomfortable, teach your child to say, “No, get
away,” and tell someone. When someone tickles a child, if the child
says no, all tickling should cease. Children need to know that their
words have power and that no means no.
If your child does come to you with questions, try not to look shocked
or embarrassed. If your daughter senses your discomfort, she may be
hesitant to confide in you again. And if she tells you about abusive
behavior, take it seriously and report it to the authorities. I’m sure
that Penn State coaches wish they gone to the proper authorities and
handled the Sandusky tragedy quite differently.
Through prevention education, together we can help break the cycle of
child sexual abuse and keep children in youth sports safe from sexual
abuse. ** Jill Starishevsky is a mother of three and the author of
“My Body Belongs to Me,” a children’s book intended to prevent
child sexual abuse by teaching children that their bodies are their own.
Excerpted from "Softball Mom's Survival Guide: How you and your daughter can be winners in softball (Sportsparenting Survival Guides) [Kindle Edition]" by Janis Meredith. Copyright © 2013 by Janis Meredith. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.