Parent Experience on Daughters Playing High School Baseball
Baseball is often seen as a male sport, but females can play as well. While many high schools offer both baseball and softball programs, they are considered two different sports. This means girls can have the opportunity to play high school baseball. Some of the parents of players from USA Baseball's Women's National Team have offered their opinions and best advice if you or your daughter are hoping to play baseball in high school. Contributors include the parents of Danielle Allen, Monty Sandoval, Marti Sementelli, Jenna Marston and Anna Kimbrell.
What was the process like to get approval for your daughter to play high school baseball?
Allen's Parents: We went to the high school athletic director when Danielle was in eighth grade to let them know that she was going to try out for the boys' baseball team. We decided to go right to the AD instead of the head coach. I told the athletic director that I had a copy of the Illinois High School Association's rules that said girls are allowed to try out. He kept the copy and said he had no issues with Danielle trying out. I found out later that the athletic director talked to the baseball coach about Danielle and wondered if she was a good player or was just trying to make a point, and the head coach verified that Danielle was a good player. He actually was one of the evaluators when Danielle tried out for a boys' travel team and saw how well she did.
Sandoval's Parents: Prior to returning to the United States after living abroad, I had Monty email a few different high schools to introduce herself, list a few of her accomplishments and express her interest in playing for the team. We received a few responses, one very excited and positive response welcoming her back to the area and being excited to meet her; another expressing disappointment that she would choose baseball over softball, because he was the softball coach and could use her on his team, but encouraging her to play the game she enjoyed. And a third who declared, "the baseball team has already been selected." We chose to stick with the enthusiastic response.
If there was resistance, what was the reasoning for the administration/coaches hesitation in allowing your daughter to play?
Sementelli's Parents: Some of the private religious schools had in-house rules that wouldn't allow girls to play baseball. They stressed that Marti's chance to play ball would be the route of softball and not baseball. Most of the public schools in the area were accepting of the idea which meant we never had to pursue a lawsuit. A few of the coaches were not sure about the rules of having a girl on the baseball team. The head baseball coach contacted the state's high school athletic association who approved Marti's playing, stating in a letter that baseball and softball were separate sports. Since there wasn't any women's baseball team Marti had the choice to play softball or boys' baseball.
Were the other parents accepting of your daughter's inclusion on the team?
Sementelli's Parents: The parents we met and spent time with were all very supportive of Marti, and that goes back to little league and through high school. There were rumors and whispers of some parents who may have disapproved of a girl playing with their sons, but we never had a face-to-face conversation about the subject. We were never confronted by anyone about it.
Allen's Parents: Most parents were very accepting of Danielle. They were excited for her to be on the team. A parent came up to me and said that her son told him that Danielle deserved to be on the team because she was a good ballplayer. When Danielle went to fall practices as a freshman, some of the boys were asking who she was. A boy who had played ball with her for six years said, "That's just Danielle. She's good and knows how to play." No one said anything to me directly, but I know a parent said to another parent, "A girl isn't going to play any position instead of my son." When playing against other teams, I didn't hear anything negative. There were some positive comments and the umpires were very supportive. There were two teammates who talked badly about Danielle, but Danielle ignored them and other kids stuck up for her. The high school coaches talked to the team about treating Danielle with respect. For the most part, Danielle has had coaches that treated her fairly, taught her the fundamentals, and really wanted her to play on their team. They wanted her to succeed.
Marston's Parents: I never heard any negative comments from anyone -- players, parents or the other team. Usually people responded positively and with appreciation for what she was accomplishing. We had some vocal parents who were very supportive of Jenna on the team. I think part of the reason there was support for her was that her motives were pure. She wasn't out there to hang around with guys, and she wasn't trying to prove anything to people. She just wanted to do what she loved doing and had always done -- play baseball. In talking with others, I've heard stories about issues playing on boy's teams, but in all the years she played, I was never aware of any negativity.
Any additional information you'd like to share about your experience?
Sementelli's Parents: If you love baseball and want to be one of the better players, be prepared to play just as much or more than any boy out there. My advice for parents out there if your daughter loves the game, support them as much as you can because somewhere along the line there will be doubters and detractors (people always criticizing).
Sandoval's Parents: Don't make her feel she is doing something unusual; that she needs special permission. If it's a recreation team then have fun ... that's the point. If it's competitive then compete. Don't mix them up. But then again, those are the rules regardless of gender. We were lucky we found a great coach who prepped his team before we arrived, and enforced established rules about changing in the dugout to eliminate gender ever needing to be brought up. Monty was fortunate that she has had a lot of support. And, I believe that support was a reflection of her interest in the game.
Kimbrell's Parents: Through the years of Anna's growing up playing baseball, we've come across an occasional girl or two playing. I tried to watch/follow their journey. I learned the ones who are coached by their parents are the ones who don't usually survive because they can't learn/listen to anyone else. I also learned (and taught Anna) to never, never, ever throw a bat, throw a glove or kick a helmet because of what anyone says or does during a game (umpire included). I told her there would always be people that hated her for pursuing her passion and being good at it, and those people would follow her anywhere to see her disrespect herself and the game so they could laugh her off the field and she could never return. I never candy-coated anything with Anna and playing baseball with the boys. Sometimes it wasn't fun but it was real and she was brought up knowing if she didn't produce she deserved to sit the bench! She always had to watch what she said! We always discussed pros/cons, good/bad feelings, fairness/unfairness, strategies, etc. After the games, in the car, with the windows rolled up -- where no one could hear us and she could vent if needed.