Softball players should ‘toughen up’

Stacey Nuveman, San Diego State University assistant softball coach, offended some viewers when she said on national TV that her players should “toughen up” instead of wearing batting face masks.

Also an ESPN commentator, Nuveman made her comment during the Kentucky vs. California Super Regional game on Sunday, May 29.

“I don’t like (face masks). I think they’re cumbersome. I tell my (SDSU) girls who wear them, ‘come on, toughen up’.”

Her words aren’t on YouTube, but Nuveman’s statement—and the above quote—made it into a couple of online softball forums.

She was commenting on Baylor freshman catcher Clare Hosack hitting a foul ball into her own face (see above) during a Super Regional game vs. Georgia on Saturday, May 28.

With Baylor University playing in this year’s Women’s College World Series we’ll probably hear more about face masks and Hosack’s injury.

Does a coach have the right to tell a player to wear or not wear a batting face mask? How many other coaches share Nuveman’s attitude but haven’t said anything publicly yet?

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24 comments on this post.
  1. Scotty Gaddis:

    I think it is wrong for this lady to say this about wearing a mask. I have a 10 year old pitcher that wears a mask she has been hit several times and she has no problem wearing a mask but when she hears comments like this it makes her think should i wear one. My oldest is 21 now she also was a picher and in High School she got hit the the face and lost a couple of teeth she didnt have a mask on. I think Stacy needs to think about thinks she says on TV.

  2. Ana Hitzel:

    That was a silly and disappointing comment. Not surprising, I have heard and read comments on various forums after a pitcher gets hit in the face. Comments insinuating that the injury was due to the pitcher’s lack of defensive or pitching skills. There are ignorant types in every sport, even former players.

  3. Johnny54:

    What an ignorant comment by the commentator. These girls are bigger and stronger then ever and should, if anything, be required to wear facemasks. They definitely should not be criticized for it.

  4. coachmikeq:

    Thank you for your comment, Scotty.

  5. coachmikeq:

    Thank you for commenting, Johnny.

  6. Softballmom:

    Toughen Up?? Seriously?? They make the protective equipment for a reason and it is up to a player to wear it. A coach, of all people shouldnt make those comments. What would happen if this girl is on a scholarship and Lord forbid this injury take her out of the game for good. If a player loses their scholarship due to injury, are you going to tell them to “toughen up” It doesnt matter how well you play or how good of an athlete you are, sometimes these balls come so fast there is no getting out of the way! No matter the sport, an athletes well being is always on the line

  7. coachmikeq:

    All valid points. Thank you for commenting.

  8. Sharon:

    Clare is a dedicated softball player with tremendous passion for the game … none tougher! I only wish she HAD been wearing face protection!

  9. Twinpower53:

    I am going to stick up for Stacey here. A little. I agree with her that face masks are a bother. I hate wearing them. I think she was more referring to softball players being forced to wear them. I was watching when she made the comment. She wen with the first words she thought of. I am tired of policies that are made for softball pluses when they don’t make the same policies for baseball. Girls are tough but it is still viewed they are weaker than boys. I played against Stacey in high school and travelball. I know she is tough and she expects respect for her sport. She doesn’t wan girls to be weak.

    Now on the other side. I broke my upper jaw bone playing shortstop in college. Bad hop right in the mouth, I also broke my nose on a completely different play about 6 months later. I still refused to wear any protective gear. I hate it. My view was completely obstructed. I still to this day don’t wear them. I am currently a coach. It is required that high school girls wear them. I think it is wrong for it to be mandatory. Do boys in high school have to wear a mask? At least girls now can wear spikes, when I played we couldn’t until we got to college. I just don’t like the double standard. Stacey I think your great…you were great in high school, travelball, college, and as a commentator.

  10. Perry:

    I like Stacey, but just ask if she wore a mask when she was catching! Does she think catchers should just toughen up and not be required to wear them?

  11. coachmikeq:

    I, like you, am a fan of Stacey too. That being said… let’s peel this onion.

    The arguments against almost any additional safety gear include: it obstructs the view, and it’s a bother to wear or cumbersome.

    I know first-hand from working in the paper industry for nearly 30-years that safety equipment can save people from serious injury or death.

    I also enjoy, welcome, and respect the freedom of choice (and fairness) for boys and girls.

    If I am understanding your comment, your interpretation of Stacey’s comment was about being forced to wear a face mask. I think Stacey was referring to her college players when she said to ‘toughen up’ specifically as it related to them wanting to wear a helmet with a face mask.

    College players have the choice to wear, or not wear, a face mask.

    The bigger issue (in my opinion) is the conflict of interests. We have players that have been told they must wear a face mask as youth, and are now accustomed to it, while batting. So it naturally then feels uncomfortable to not wear a face mask in college.

    Maybe you and other coaches that played prior to the mandatory face mask rule don’t agree to wearing them, but consider the current players that have been wearing them for the past 7-years.

    Just like you don’t agree with forcing players to wear a face mask. I don’t agree with coaches forcing players to not wear a face mask.

  12. Katie:

    Im a softball player and i think that the girls should be able to do what ever they feel comfortable with. If you feel safe in the infield with a mask, then were a mask. People should not say girls shouldn’t wear masks. And if you do, then go get hit in the face with a softball, and i bet it won’t feel good.

  13. coachmikeq:

    Thank you for the comment, Katie

  14. kurt:

    Stupid comment, not constructive… adds nothing to the game or the broadcast. A cheap shot

  15. HeyBlue:

    Remember in college the athletes are adults. In youth softball, all the sanctioning bodies with the exception of Little League require face masks on helmets. I think that it is inappropriate for a coach to criticize a player for not wanting to wear a face mask. Players are used to wearing them.

  16. Perry:

    Just look at football! Back when they were tough they didn’t have face-guards on their helmets, they just wore leather beanies! Maybe softball players should go back to wearing leather hats to prove they are tough! Meanwhile the meanest toughest football linemen have the biggest badest faceguards! Guess they are sissies and don’t want to get their pretty faces messed up!

  17. coachmikeq:

    Katie,

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with the email address you gave us. Please, send us a working email address at mike@westcoastfastpitch.com. Thanks.

  18. Laurie:

    I agree with Stacey. Having been involved in the game of fastpitch for the past 32 years, I have seen many changes, some good, some not so. There is a weigh out going on here that says, “is it worth what we lose to get what we gain?” We gain some protection from injury, or do we? Players are now not learning how to avoid getting hit in the face while batting. They can bunt with bad form now, and the ball just bounces off the mask. Until they get into college where they are expected to know the finer points of the game. Their game is deeply ingrained by this point, including the ability to not avoid a fouled-off ball.
    During a meal at the NFCA convention a few years ago, a very well known and respected college coach made the remark, “I’ve never had players get hit by the ball before while batting, but this year I’ve had it happen three times. Hmm. The girls are not learning the skills necessary to not get hit in the face.
    Even the facemask manufacturers will agree that the facemasks decrease visibility. So what if a girl gets hit in the torso and dies of a heart injury because she lost the ball while adjusting her eyes between bars of the facemask?
    Those players who began having to wear the facemasks in 2006 have just reached the collegiate game in full force, and they don’t know how to avoid getting hit in the face because they have always had to wear a facemask. This is the scariest thing to me. What a disservice we have done in the name of safety. I would highly suspect that more kids get hit and killed by cars on the road than by balls on the fastpitch field. So are we going to tie ropes on them to keep them from running in front of cars? No we teach them how to avoid cars.
    Another point is that we are again telling girls that they aren’t capable. The boys can play without masks, but those pretty girl faces need to be covered. We might as well go back to 6 on 6 basketball too, because you know all that running could be causing knee injuries. Hmm.
    Do your girls a service and let them play. Teach them that they are every bit as capable as the boys, and let them learn the game, all of it, including how to avoid getting hit at the plate, as well as how to catch a ball so it doesn’t hit them in the face while on the field.
    Someone wanted to look like a hero by instituting this rule, but obviously wasn’t thinking of the girls, or the game. This rule will set fastpitch, and women’s rights, back 20 years.

  19. Laurie:

    And by the way Perry, it’s not part of the fastpitch game that girls crash into the ball, like guys crashing into each other on a football field.

  20. david:

    My issue is, and always has been, the stigma placed on players that do choose to wear a mask by coaches. To make the leap that women’s rights will be set back 20 years because a player chooses to wear a piece of protective gear is insulting.
    What is more insulting and downright insidious, though, is the college coach out there that refuses to recruit a pitcher that has chosen to wear a protective mask….the unwritten rule.
    Can a player make the choice on her own without fear of consequence? Not at this point in time.
    Hey coaches!! Show some courage and character. Come out and publically state, loudly, that if a pitcher is wearing a facegaurd that you will recruit her based on her performance and ability just as you would if she were not wearing it.
    Take the issue away!! Don’t make it mandatory, that is just as bad.
    Show our DDs the respect that they have earned.

  21. Roger:

    Laurie,

    Your comment and logic are beyond ridiculous. Pitchers are 43′ feet from the batter and are at great risk of serious injury. Perhaps you can add drills that have coaches hitting the ball as hard as possible at the girls’ heads so they can improve their reaction time. Please get back to me after your daughter has been in surgery for 5 hours, had her head cut from ear to ear, her face pulled down and 7 plates put in (been there). I’m sure you would think that is a small price to pay to prove to boys that you’re as tough (read foolish) as the boys. By the way, the surgeon (Univ. of WI) told me he operates on even more boys than girls. There is no reason girls need to prove to boys that they can be as foolish as us.

    My daughter was trained by a pitcher from the Chicago Bandits and after my daughter’s injury she went to a Bandit’s game. The pitcher introduced her to another pitcher who told my daughter that she should not be wearing a mask because it shows that she is not tough enough.

    I will tell you that the 1st few times my daughter pitched after the injury she was terrified, wouldn’t throw the ball over the plate and would cover her head on a routine infield ground ball. You may consider that weak. I’ve always viewed courage as the ability to act in the face of danger (real or perceived) not the ability to act when you perceive there is no danger (that’s called foolishness). My daughter worked through her fear (with a mask on ) and is able to pitch with little trepidation today (she’s started pitcher on varsity since Freshman year in high level conference in Illinois).

    Your attitude is part of a problem in the softball culture that needs to be changed.

  22. Faith Philips:

    This comment was a while ago but I feel the need to comment now since I was on-line looking up the condition of a young lady (pitcher) that got hit by a ball last night during a tournament. The injury was bad and she had to be taken away by an ambulance. My heart and prayers go out to her friends and family. The hit was a line drive back to her head.
    My daughter is also a pitcher and we have always taught her being safe is cool! Its ridiculous coaches like this that make being safe a struggle for young ladies to choose to be safe. If a college coach doesn’t pick my daughter to play on their team because she has chosen to wear a face mask to be safe then I don’t want her going to their college anyway, regardless of the ranking. This to me means they don’t have the best interest of the players in mind. There are still narrow thinking people like this in the world that we will choose not to accompany.
    Two years ago my daughter was playing on an 18 gold team at the age of 14 wearing her face mask. The coach on the team didn’t like it and my daughter asked why. She said you shouldn’t have to and the college coaches don’t like it. I told my daughter those coaches don’t like anyone and they will not be the ones there by your bed side when you take one right to the forehead and become incapacitated and can no longer eat and drink on your own. Those coaches will forget about you. It will be your dad and I who are always there for you, by your side taking care of you. We love you and support you and will always think you are making the right decision to wear the mask. ITS COOL TO BE SAFE!!!

  23. coachmikeq:

    Faith, thanks for your comment.

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