Blog Entry

Kids get it right

Posted on: April 30, 2010 4:41 am
I have three sons -- all adults now -- who played baseball with varying degrees of passion. The easy-going one would automatically step to the outfield, the zone for Little League coaches to assign the meeker or less talented players. He'd make one absolutely breathtaking catch per season, and then rest. He wasn't impressed with the concept of all stars. To him, baseball was recreation. It was a time to be with his friends and play a game against other friends. He once complained that the worst thing about Little League and Babe Ruth was that adults were involved.

The second son primarliy played infield, occasionally pitched and was really a good athlete. He was also shy, avoiding standing out in the crowd at all costs. He liked playing baseball, but he didn't like people watching. He loved the strategies but didn't love the spotlight. He just didn't complain -- even when he suffered at the hands of a coach who was less than kind to his players.

The first-born son played through one season of Babe Ruth ball and then played soccer in the spring. The second son hung up his cleats in exchange for distance running in track.

Then there was the third son. He never met a game he didn't want to win. Every moment of life to him was one huge competition. When he was too young to play baseball he was on the swim team. When it wasn't baseball season he found another sport. An illustration as to how competitive he was came when, at age 5, he played whiffle ball. We arrived at the game where everybody bats until they get a hit and everyone scores. He stopped cold on the way to his team, staring at the day's opponents intently. Then his shoulders sagged.

"We lose," he said. "They have one more player than we do."

As I look back over their lives as boys, I remember moments frozen in my mind. They made some heart-stopping plays. The oldest actually hung himself on a fence diving for and catching a ball. The shy second son took the mound to pitch and totally baffled most of the hitters. The number three son, who played baseball until he graduated from high school, pitched a perfect game his senior year.

Those aren't the moments that come to mind first though. I remember the oldest son, in his first game of youth ball, connecting with the ball and smacking it past the shortstop. It was time to run to first. He'd seen it on TV. He'd watched his half brother. The problem was he decided to duplicate the television, not the brother. So, he ran to first -- in extreme slow motion. His coach turned purple urging him to first, forgetting any fleeting thought he might have had of sending him on to second base. Fortunately, the outfielder who came up with the ball wasn't any faster than the base runner, so he made it there and almost got picked off dancing around in a state of absolute ecstasy.

I remember the second son, when his coach had forgotten to play him. I watched his face each innning, watching him for signs of sadness. Thee were none. He sat with a boy who was new in town (and also forgotten) and cheered on the team. Before the final ending, his team ended the game by going up by 10 runs. I asked him how he felt about not playing.

"It wasn't fun," he said. "I guess winning isn't really everything. But it's fine. He said he'd start us next game."

And then there is the first memory that comes to mind with my super competitive son. He had moved up from whiffle ball to the lowest age group of Little League and, on the team he was opposing, was a special needs child he knew. Number three son was the catcher when Bobby came up to bat. Bobby always smiled. He smiled even bigger when he managed to get his first hit of the season. His grin seemed to shine as he ran to first. He ignored his coach and went on to second and then third. My son's team finally managed to throw the ball to him. There he stood at home plate, stocky and sure of himself, and Bobby was grinning his way home.

The boy-who-must-not-lose squared himself. Bobby was bearing down on him. He looked at Bobby and looked at the ball. Then he stepped aside and let the ball slip from his fingers. Bobby scored his first and only run of his baseball career.

Every parent has stories like these about their children. What these stories point to is that young people might not walk on the field able to pitch, make diving catchers, or slide under tags. However, they do carry with them something that all of us wise adults sometimes forget -- and that's the unmitigated joy of getting to play the game. We teach them the skills. They plug us back into the joy. I'd say that's a pretty fair trade.

Since: Jan 6, 2009
Posted on: May 2, 2010 7:43 pm

Kids get it right

I agree Schmo. I have seen far more problem parents than problem coaches. The coach I refer to was one of only two coaches who were less than wonderful and, on the whole, the coaches who I experienced...and with three sons that's a lot of coaches...were kind, giving and intelligent. Unfortunately the two bad coaches both happened to the shy son, but it taught him a lot about life. I would also point out neither of the coaches are still coaching and one of them was relieved of his duties by a board member at the end of his second game. The coaches and the umpires and refs of youth sports deserve accolades for their work.
I've often thought that all youth sports should employe the red card/yellow card system used in soccer. Knowing their mouthiness could cause the loss of a player might make them think twice befeore they speak. On my oldest son's soccer team there was an extremely mouthy mother. Two of the bench players were assigned Rhonda-duty. They had to stand on either side of her and ask her to be quiet if her emotions ran away with her. She was responsible for the only red cards the team ever got -- five of them -- in one season before the coach came up with this new position.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: May 2, 2010 3:54 pm

Kids get it right

Good story.  Having been on both sides of the fence as a coach and parent I would say that most coaches have their heart in the right place.  They donate their time to help kids become better players and better understand the game.  Most, but not all, aren't overly concerned with the wins and losses.  The parents on the other hand are, for the most part, awful sports and their kids would be better served if they stayed home.  They criticize the umps, the kids and the coaches.  Most of them have no clue about the strategy, or rules, of the game yet insist on trying to coach their kid from the stands.  They yell at the umpires about missed, or bad, calls all game.  Most times they are wrong and all the time they should be quiet and let the coaches handle whatever situations go on with the umpires.  They complain about the coaching all the time yet very few ever donate their time to coach.  If the team is winning it's because of the players, if the team is losing it's because of the coach.  Almost anyone who has ever coached youth sports says the same thing.  Win or lose, teaching and being around the kids is fun, dealing with the parents is miserable.

Since: Jan 6, 2009
Posted on: May 1, 2010 7:54 pm

Kids get it right

Thanks for your comment, Hoosier. Just as you have great memories of your grandsons, I'm sure they hold some really excellent stories about you teaching them the right path.

Since: May 1, 2010
Posted on: May 1, 2010 7:44 pm

Kids get it right

Thanks for your great story of your 3 boys. I raised 2 grandsons, both active in sports and my best memories are stories similar to yours. I don't remember the wins and losses, but I'll never forget the times they showed great sportsmanship. They always helped the less gifted kids succeed. The greatest part of sports are the less known stories and my best memories. Thanks for the reminder.

Since: Jan 6, 2009
Posted on: April 30, 2010 9:37 pm

Kids get it right

Thanks, D2. I appreciate the kind words and that you took the time to write them. Adults are always so worried about teaching our children they lose sight of the fact that they have so much to teach us too.

Since: Dec 7, 2007
Posted on: April 30, 2010 8:25 pm

Kids get it right

Great blog Retry1.  I think you did an excellent job of raising those boys with the right perspective about sports.  It is too bad adults have to be too involved in kids sports, especially some of the ones who don't coach, but still are too pushy, too concerned about winning too young, and are critical of the players.  Kids see it at once, some adults never get it.

Again, very good piece.  Glad you took the time to write it.

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