The softball season may have wrapped up for most but there’s a special group of athletes that will continue to grind over the winter after being selected for numerous New Zealand representative teams.

National teams and training squads for the Black Sox, Men’s Major Sox, Junior White Sox and both Developing Sox have all been named recently with players rewarded all around the country for their hard work and form from the last season.

While some selections are more focused on the development of our next generation of stars, such as in the age-grade squads, other namings come with plenty of fierce competition to come ahead of events such as the Men’s World Softball Championships which is being held in Auckland next year.

But how are players selected in the first place?

Selections for any team – whether it be for school, province or international honours – are always a debatable affair with hours of discussions between coaches and selectors taking place behind the scenes before a squad is formally announced.

The Dugout spoke to a representative selector about what goes on “behind the scenes” and they said it can be just as stressful for them as those who may be trialling for a team.

“There’s so many factors, especially at higher levels, you can take into account,” the selector said.

“Obviously, you’re looking for talent and players that are going to help your campaign but there’s other things you can factor in as well such as their off-field behaviour, their form, their experience, how they trialled, chemistry with other, etcetera, etcetera.

“Some days it all lines up and you stare at the paper thinking you’ve found a winner but more often than not you’ll have to walk away from the table for a breather before you take another crack.”

When it comes to advice for those looking to make such teams, especially in the younger grades looking to make a name for themselves, the selector said their advice was simple.

“Just do your best and don’t sweat the small stuff,” they said.

“At a trial show the best version of you as a person, not just a player. Coaches and selectors pick up on that stuff and, like I said, weigh it up.

“And if you make an error, whether it’s in a drill or during a game or whatever environment where someone might be watching, shake it off and come back stronger – if you show that mental strength to overcome obstacles, that can be a really good asset to have as well.

“Also, don’t just try to put on a show when you know someone is watching. Word gets around our community pretty quick about who’s hot and who’s not and how people are going – plus you never know if we’re hiding in the shadows!”

Unfortunately though, not everyone can make every team and the selector said that was one of the hardest parts of the job.

“You really hate it, especially if you have to make phone calls instead of being able to talk face-to-face – I’ve always found doing that sort of thing as something that should be done in-person so it can be talked through.

“You really just want to let them know they can still make the cut, they can still push their case the next time around. It’ll sting now but use that pain to push harder and come back stronger. I know it sounds cheesey and cliché but I’ve seen it enough to know those who truly want it eventually get it.”

After naming his squad for the World Championships earlier this month, Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson had a similar message for those who missed out.

“The challenge is there for all the guys who have missed out to show how much the jersey means to them,” Sorenson said.

“The truth is we are not the best in the world anymore, so the standard we measure ourselves against is no longer a domestic one.”

So those working this winter after being named in squads, congratulations and best of luck achieving your goals.

To those who didn’t make the cut this time though…

What are you waiting for?

Written by the Dugout team

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