Two Sides of the Sport Parent Coin

We’ve all read about the overzealous sports parent who yells at his/her kid, coaches from the sidelines, maybe even has words with the ump, opposing coach or parents.  (Well, hopefully people still read more than 140 characters of a tweet.) Although I believe many sports parents profess to disagree with the behaviour, I still see it at almost every sports game my children play.  As if yelling at them during a game will do anything at all but interrupt their focus.  As parents, we just can’t seem to help ourselves.  I count myself in this category, although I will say I am a recovering negative sports parent.

However, there is another side to the sports parenting coin that is becoming equally disturbing – the Excessive Celebration Parent.  I’m not saying we should not cheer to support our children and their teammates – quite the contrary.  I believe we have the power to help our children overcome their doubts and help them build confidence by yelling things like, “You’ve got this!”, “Great job!”, “What a catch!”, “Great hit!”, “That’s a great pitch!” and the like!

Remember however, each of these small victories are also a small loss for the opposing team and children.  When your pitcher strikes out the other team’s clean-up hitter, you feel extra excited.  You cheer a little louder, maybe even  jump up and clap.  Great for you, but what does the hitter feel like?  At some point, he or she will understand that your extra celebration can be taken as a sign of respect, but when these kids are between the ages of 9 and 13, everything is a struggle.  Their emotional state is in flux as their bodies and identities change.  Your example, whether it is positive or negative, has some extra weight now because of this time in their lives.  The consequences of YOUR actions are bigger and that means it is even more important to set a good example.

My boys love the game of baseball.  Unfortunately, at age 11, the baseball community in North Texas is getting very small.  It is rare that we play against a team with no former coach or teammate on it.  If you play in a league rather than tournaments, the chances of playing against former teams and coaches is amplified even more.  One particular team, our home for more than 2 years, is especially difficult to play against.  The boys are all good ball-players.  The parent coaches are all passionate about the game and their team.  The parents are all invested in the success of their children and the team.  Typically the games are close and hard-fought.  I have continued friendships with several of the parents and coaches through Facebook and see the kids still treat each other as friends rather than rivals.  A laugh between the baserunner and the defensive player trying to get them out.  A slap in the helmet or a fist bump for a good hit.  I see these interactions between the children at every game and it warms my heart.

The parents and coaches however are a different story all together.  One family, who we never played with, but have been on the same teams at different times, won’t make eye-contact with us or talk to us any more.  I have no idea why.  At a game last season, I noticed that one of the father/coaches, a person I consider a friend and who in his professional life is a great roll-model, ran out on the field and belly bumped his child after every scoreless defensive inning or after any great hit.  It made me feel a bit strange – offended even.  When talking to his wife later, the actions were attributed to trying to encourage the child who had been in a hitting slump.  I still thought it was a bit much, but I let it go.

Then, this season, in our second game against this team the tie was 0-0 after five and a half innings.  Their team was the home team so they got one final at bat.  Time had expired and they had one runner on second with one out.  They hit the ball right to first base for an easy out, but the runner on second ran to third on the hit and rounded the base headed for home.  The runner stopped on the base path and looked at our first basemen who had the ball.  It was enough to get the first baseman to throw the ball – to third base.  The error gave the runner the opportunity to steal home and the game was over.

As the runner crossed home plate, this father/coach charged onto the field yelling, jumping and whooping with such vigor his shirt was flying up to his armpits.  Another father/coach was running around his team high-fiving them and yelling like they had just won a million dollars.  Their entire dugout emptied onto the field around first base jumping, yelling, hugging – players, parents, coaches alike.  Yes, the game was exciting.  Yes, it was hard-fought.  However, this was game five in a twelve game season.  The run was the result of an error not a fantastic hit.  And finally and perhaps worse of all, this massive celebration took place not three feet from the player committing the game-ending error and before the teams had shook hands and complimented each other on a well-played game.

The next morning when I asked my sons about it, one said, “I was too busy being mad about losing to notice what the coaches were doing.”  The other, one who had been in right field just behind the error said, “I felt really bad when Coach X started jumping up and down celebrating.  He did it right in front of X.  I mean it wasn’t like they made some crazy good hit or incredible play.  We messed up and they scored.  I felt really bad for my teammate and they were all around him.”

Of course, it’s all just written off a sour-grapes when you’re on the losing end of a game.  Whatever complaint you have, be it bad officiating, coaches influencing calls, bad coaching, poorly behaved parents, it’s all just because your kid’s team lost.  But that just illustrates my point even further.  This is your kid’s game, not yours.  Even if you are a coach and you have been working for months with your kid on one specific skill.  It is the kid who accomplishes the goal, not you!  Once the game begins, it is the kids who own it, not the parents, not even the coaches.  I may give a bit of credit to the third base coach who told the runner to go home, but come on!  Act like you’ve been here before.  Conduct yourself with dignity.  Behave like an adult and show respect to all of the players who went 6 scoreless innings and finally made one game changing error.  Remember that you are setting an example to your children – and heck even the parents and coaches around you.  How would your kid feel if this took place around him and it was his error that lost the game?

My children all play sports. (Like you don’t already know that – haha)  I want them to experience success and failure on this smaller scale because in a game, there is ample opportunity for growth through a struggle that lasts for just 90 minutes rather than a lifetime!  I guess in the end, they do need both good and bad examples to learn from so maybe I owe you a thank you for showing them how NOT to act when they have sporty kids of their own.  But, really, I’d just like to see grown ups behaving like grown ups.

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Life, Death & Baseball

Well, this time of year is considered the “off-season” in baseball, but honestly it is when the front offices go NUTS trying to compile the best possible team for the season. The way they do this is not by pulling the guys in for extended training (although they did have a few here in Dallas last week). Nope, it’s TRADE SEASON! Yes that right baseball fans! Just when you fall in love with your favorite player, buy his jersey (cuz it went on sale in October), and buy a pack of cards…he’s no longer on your hometown team.

How do you build a fan base that way? Oh yea! The only way to build a fan base – according to current baseball business philosophy is to WIN! To that argument, I give you the Boston Red Sox….BOOM!  In reality, I believe this is the culture that created the “casual fan” so many in the industry seem to hate.  The trickle down to 9U sports is also pretty funny, but don’t think for a moment it isn’t happening!  Oh well, if you build it they will come right?  Except what exactly are you building?  a “team” full of players traded like the cards their pictures are on and given just a time or two to prove their worth before they are sent to the glue factory.  UUUGGGHHH!

I say it again, the business of baseball is in stark contrast to the game. The business is ugly, seedy, unscrupulous (sp) and just plain bad. But the game! Oh the game is a thing of beauty.  As hard as it is effortless.  So fun to watch the consummate professional play alongside the passionate rookie all on a beautiful field of green with the star-studded sky or blazing sun above.  I should say, the game can be beautiful…as long as you don’t give the pitcher only a few seconds to throw a pitch and you don’t outlaw the shift because the fans who don’t actually appreciate the game, but like taking off work for a cold beer and hotdog think it makes it too long and boring!  But I guess that is an argument for another post!

Just 24 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training! PLAY BALL!

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Live, Write, Repeat

IMAG0616I sat down on December 31st with my kids and we set out to see what we were doing on that date in 2013.  Much to my dismay, it was very much the same thing I was doing right that very moment.  We looked forward through the next few months and really, besides the teams playing in the bowl games and the foods I was planning to make, many of the posts were just a repeat of the year just passed and the one before that.

At first, this bothered me.  I thought how sad it was that these milestones, these Facebook posts I had thought worthy of sharing with my 400+ “friends,” were really just remakes of a previous version.  Then it occurred to me.  I’m pretty happy in general.  I don’t really want for anything.  I can afford to spoil my kids with sports and movies and video games and more.  I love my home.  I love my family.  And over the past few years, I have made a few new friends who have had a huge impact on my life.  These things are all wonderful examples of a life well lived.

Maybe looking back and seeing a repeat is just a sign that you’re living a good life.  Maybe a good remake of a classic is truly the best form of flattery!  So CHEERS to all of you who can look back and see a whole lot of the same over the last year – or two!  Pat yourselves on the back.  You’re doing a great job!  Let’s hope 2015 brings more of the same!!!

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Is There Really A Happy Medium?

Be the best.  Strive for excellence.  Never settle.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right.  We hear these all the time when it comes to most aspects of our lives.  But the reality is that almost all of us are somewhere in the middle.

So, why is it that in sports there seems to be only two options – Crazy and Lazy?  Crazy is the middle-aged father/coach who has his team practice on the field twice each week plus an hour in a batting cage and a tournament with a 4 game guarantee each weekend.  Lazy is the father/coach who has his team meet for an hour each week to play in a game without any thought of practice or any discussion of how the game can be played.  You would think that one team would have a distinct advantage over the other, but in reality, they both have the same opportunity to win or lose on any given day.

So, where does that leave a family like mine who is really looking for something in-between?  Well, it leaves us looking.  The middle is so subjective it can’t be found.  Mine is different from yours.  I might think that two practices a week are beneficial especially with a sport only played for 12 weeks each year.  You might feel that is overkill since we need to ease the athletes into the sport.  Is there a correct answer?  Especially when you consider that children are going to change so often that what might have worked for them last season, might not work again this time.  Yet, we spend more time playing the kids who are more developed that developing the kids who have potential.  It just leaves me wondering, where is my happy medium?

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To Fail or Not to Fail, That is the Question!

Who would ever choose to fail you ask? Well, we all do. Every day. When we make choices about where to spend our time and effort, we are focusing on the things that are important to us, and not giving time and effort to the things that are not. However, when you are 11 and easily distracted, you may not realize you are making a choice. Heck, you probably didn’t realize there was even a question.

Right now, one of my 11 year-old sons is experiencing failure. He has failed at things before, but this time I actually saw it register on his face that HE and only HE was totally responsible for this failure. It is going to sound like bad parenting, but his Father and I have been hoping this day would come. The day he would recognize his own fall, his part in the process and his failure to achieve his goal. In the past, he has always chalked it up to a one-time occurrence – EVEN when it was in the same situation or about the same subject. He has been unable to recognize his choices are causing him to fail. But today, things seem different.

Here’s the story. Fifth-graders at our Elementary school get to run for student council as representatives of each grade level. They fill out an application and if approved are assigned a grade level to represent. Then they are allowed to create posters and place them in the school halls, write a campaign speech, and present their speech to the grade for which they are running. My boys have been talking about running for student council since they were in second grade. Some of the students they most admired were student council representatives. These kids weren’t just the cool kids, but they seemed – I don’t know – more grown up than the rest of the grade. I liked that my boys admired these leaders and encouraged their dream to run.

Now that they are fifth-graders, the time came for elections. Michael asked every day after elections were announced if we could get poster supplies. When we were short on time, he worked on his speech instead. He had goals for the speech, and ideas about the posters and his campaign. Christopher, although also excited, seemed more laid-back about the whole thing. He struggled to come up with ideas. When Michael had already gotten approval for his speech, Christopher was just starting. Honestly, I’m not sure he would have started at all if I had not nagged him to work on it. Once approved, I asked to see it and really it was no more than an outline of items he wanted to say. “What sports I play, make it the best year, not promise things a can’t do…” and so on. I asked him what parts of his speech would be of interest to the third-graders he was trying to represent, and he shrugged his shoulders. I asked him to practice and was able to get him to read his paper once.

The morning of the elections, Christopher could not find his speech. He looked through his backpack, but found nothing. Our morning routine did not allow time for a complete home search, so we were off to school without his notes. When it came time for speeches, he – along with 8 of his fifth-grade peers – lined up in the gym and took a good long look at the podium. He was second in line. Once the first candidate was finished, he knew his ship was sunk. This candidate had a tutu, crown, props and a well prepared and practiced speech. Christopher was gonna have to wing it. As he approached the podium, his hands went into his pockets. He mumbled his name and a quick greeting to the third-grade audience. He then promptly forgot most of what he had planned, said a couple of things about making it a great year and listed off his favorite positions in the sports he played. He remembered to ask for their vote and that was that.

When he took his place along the wall with the rest of the candidates, the look on his face was evident. He had no chance of winning. All of the other candidates were ready for this day and he was not. I felt his embarrassment. I felt the failure myself, but I also felt vindicated. He had been arguing with his Father and I for a very long time about how much time and effort it takes to succeed at something – at anything really. He spent at least an hour the day prior to these speeches playing video games instead of practicing for this moment. He had “forgotten” science homework, but still had time for the X-box. Does it resonate with him now that the time he spent playing directly affected his performance on this project? As is always the case with young ones – only time will tell.

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So Much to Say!

The ideas swim around in my head all day.  I imagine writing them down as I drive the car, take a shower, brush my teeth.  But then, when I have a moment in the middle of the night to write – whoosh!  They’re gone.  I wonder sometimes if this is some sort of cruel joke – the love of the written word and the inability to write anything worth reading.

So, if it can not be me who inspires or entertains, then let me share a few folks who I love to read!

All things Minor League Baseball – http://tepidparticipation.com/

All things Snarky Mom – http://snarkyinthesuburbs.com/

All things Women and religion – http://www.angiemn.com/

of course there are more, but it is 2:19am and I’m falling asleep while typing!

g’nite all!

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