Q&A with former Beach Softball President, Hermosa Beach Softball Mom, Kelly Trudgen

Former Beach Softball League president, Kelly Trudgen answers softball parenting questions and gives advice to current league presidents, including the challenges in being on a youth sports league board, city politics, balancing the busy life as a sports parent, the transition from rec ball to travel ball in softball, the difference between baseball and softball and more. 


Savana's Note: Kelly and Dave Trudgen are dedicated softball parents. They are an example of what it takes to be successful volunteering and running a softball league, in addition to the demands of life parenting young athletes. Like many things in life, softball leagues are only as good as their leadership. We are humbled and grateful to have been alongside the Trudgen family as they merged Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach leagues to build a community of thriving softball girls and families. I asked Kelly a set of questions that I thought would be helpful for those of you parenting a softball girl, volunteering on a league board or managing a travel ball organization... She is a positive force and great example!  Enjoy! 

What advice do you have for a new league president in a youth softball league?  

Ignore the chatter. It’s really easy to get bogged down by the opinions and often the negativity of the parents. Everyone will have an opinion and it’s super easy to sit on the sidelines and make comments vs rolling up your sleeves and doing the work. 

Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from parents and/or advice from other league presidents. There is a TON of knowledge available.
 
It’s about the kids. I know, sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget. We are all competitive and want to have our league succeed. However, we always have to remember these are kids, with the majority under the age of 12.

Training, training, training. Your budget should almost be entirely dedicated to providing training for the girls (and coaches).

Focus on positive. It starts at the top. Enforce positive coaching and parent participation. There is no room for bullies, negative behavior from anyone, ever. Period.
  Kelly and her daughter Kate, on Sunday morning at the softball field. 

 

What are some of your greatest moments and memories of success in being board president? 

Wow, that’s a hard one. Not a lot of reward for running a league, LOL. But sometimes it’s the little things. I had a mom come up to me while I was hanging our league banner at Clark Field. She said that she was really excited about our league as she played softball in college and her daughter had just finished her first year with Beach in the 6U division. She said that her daughter had an amazing time and she was super impressed regarding the organization, training, positive coaches, fun atmosphere and that she wishes this was available to her when she was little. She didn’t know who I was, just wanted to complement the league. That was a great moment.

I’m super proud of Beach Softball. We basically started a new league (we merged Manhattan Beach & Hermosa Beach Softball). While winning isn’t everything, In three short years we sent 2 teams to Nationals, 8 teams to State, were runners up in Districts (3 teams) & won Districts (12U). We also won a few tournaments along the way. I’m super proud of the girls and our amazing coaches.

What were your biggest challenges in leading the board and league of softball girls, and how did you problem solve and over come that? 

Parents and city politics. Parents mean well but they are exhausting! If you haven’t seen the movie “All Stars”, watch it. It’s perfect (and hilarious). As for overcoming parent issues, it’s just patience and learning to listen. Unfortunately, overbearing parenting comes with the territory. You’ll make mistakes and have to have thick skin. I’m a people pleaser and had to learn quick that not everyone will like me or agree with my decisions and I had to be okay with that.
City politics are a bit more challenging. When we decided to merge our two leagues and pull away from Little League, we became our own entity and had to fight to keep our field space. We had to renegotiate our rates and make sure that we got equal access as other sports vying for the same fields. There were many, many hours spent with city planners and at city council meetings. We had to educate and fight for our league and it worked out well as we are now guaranteed space for years to come.

Parents are busy, there’s so much to do in what feels like so little time in the day, how do you balance to make it work to add in this volunteer position? 

You just do. Now that I’m not doing it, I’m not sure how I found the time. I know it took away from my time with my family and definitely caused me to lose sleep but you just do what needs to be done.  I think coaches probably have it worse – there is so much that they need to do to prepare for games and they are the ones that take the results of the game home with them to then chew on until the next game. I experienced that first hand with my husband Dave who coached every year and spent countless hours planning and then rehashing games. Like all coaches, he not only had to deal with parents but also had to be the emotional rock for the girls on and off the field. Now THAT is a hard job!

Kate, your daughter has now moved on to travel ball, any words or thoughts you would like to share to other softball parents and or girls making this same transition? 

Don’t go too early. Kate just started travel at 14U. We had SO much fun in rec ball. Kate had incredible experiences and made lifetime friendships. She got to play on her local fields with friends, participate in activities such as HBLL opening day, hit a thon, MBLL parade through town, the Big/Little sister program and more. She got to experience going to State twice, winning Districts, playing and winning (and losing) tournaments. The list goes on and on. Her proudest possession is her All Star jacket that has the various years embroidered on the sleeve. She LOVED Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Beach Softball. She also got the incredible experience to learn to play and love the game alongside her Dad. That is irreplaceable.

Making the transition – find a program that fits and feels like family. Some kids need a big program that challenges them and pushes them, others need a smaller program where they get more individual attention. There are lots of options out there. If you find the program you picked isn’t quite right,  find another. There’s not a ton of resources, most of it is word of mouth so you’ll have to be your own advocate.

Now that Kate, moved on from travel ball, you also move on from League president, how did you pass the baton and set up the next person for success? Any advise on that? 

I think I basically dropped the baton in our current league president’s lap and ran. LOL. Alison is amazing. She has really embraced the league, taken the lead and is killing it! I tried to get us as organized as possible, writing down everything. For me, the knowledge was passed down from past presidents verbally. It was all in their brains from years of experience. I didn’t have that and as I also never actually played the game, it was pretty tough. I created a written guide with all details laid out. Hopefully that has been helpful. I’m still around/available to answer questions and consult on things but they have definitely let me go to pasture.. of which I’m thankful!

Having both a son, and a daughter in the sport, what is the biggest difference you see working with the boys league versus the girls league? Any thoughts to share about that? 

Never in a million years did I think that I’d be spending so much time on ball fields. Growing up and competing as a swimmer, this is all new territory for me! I couldn’t be prouder of my kids and I have no idea how they handle the pressure of this sport. As for the difference between the sports – I’d say it’s the communication. Baseball is pretty tough when it comes to communication. Not a lot of information is shared and sometimes it almost feels like trying to break into a “secret society” or club. Softball is much more welcoming and open, information is much more available and parents seem more open in trying to help each other’s kids advance. Oh, and Softball is LOUD. Man, the difference in the noise level from the dugouts is incredible. Those cheers.. they will stick in my brain for life.

 

 

Kate, Kelly and Dave enjoying a morning at the Beach in their hometown, Hermosa Beach, California. 

You do a great job of all the things that surround the sports journey we think help bring an athlete full success for example, keeping your kids in other sports, junior guards, running a household, family dinner, travel, neighborhood community, school involvement, how does this help your kids in their success in sports? 

Man, that’s super sweet of you to say. Just reading that makes me a little tired!!
For us it’s just natural. Sports are a big deal in our house hold but they are not everything/all encompassing. We do them to be healthy, active and part of our community. We let our kids do what interests them. Why not try everything while you are young and you can? I was pretty limited in options growing up, there weren’t as many choices and I think just swimming made it easy on my parents. I want my kids to be well rounded and have lots of experience. We’re pretty realistic, we aren’t expecting our kids to be full ride D1 players w/ contracts to the NBA, NFL, WNBA, MLB – although if anyone is listening and wants to offer it, send it our way. Ha!   
We want them to know that giving back to the community is equally important. School work is the MOST important. We love our family time and are pretty protective about it. I’m lucky my kids still like hanging out with us, that’s a gift.
Regarding playing multiple sports, I actually talked a great deal about this with lots of accomplished folks who have competed at the top / professional level. Too many kids are getting injured by not taking breaks and/or not using different muscle groups because they are specializing in a sport at too young of an age. Their (and our) brains need a break too – it’s good to leave one sport/mind set behind and focus on another or just not focus at all on any for a bit. At some point you’ll either end up stopping wearing a team uniform (or be asked to stop wearing it) so we want our kids to embrace the experience for as long as they want to or can experience it.

Any other topics, points, thoughts, ideas you'd like to share coming from all of your experience leading the league and pushing to keep it growing in a successful positive path? 

Just remember, it’s for fun.

 

 

 

 

 


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