Baseball June 2, 2014

What have we been doing?  This.

And this.

And this.

And I know there are some moms reading this blog who see baseball season as an absolute chore.  Dinner must be served and eaten by 5pm.  Younger siblings must be entertained on the sideline.  You tell them again and again that they cannot eat another snack.   You must remind these younger ones that they used the potty right before they left, and so there is really no need to treck across another field to use a very dirty bathroom and miss their brother or sister bat.  Little siblings will be tired and very dirty after the games, bath time will be rushed, bedtime stories will be skipped, all kids will get to bed late, and you will return home exhausted, with a kitchen sink full of dishes, and unswept floors.

These are the inconveniences of baseball season, or any sports season, with a larger family.  This spring, we have had the luck of having two kids on the same team, and Dad as the head coach.  That is triple the fun and 1/3 of the inconvenience (at least that is what I have told myself).  There have been highs and lows, but even the lows have been full of great teaching moments for our children.  As an example, in a recent game, we played an opposing town’s team.  We always lose to these teams because they are older.  In the first inning my son hit a soft line drive and thought the 3rd baseman was going to catch it.  He didn’t run hard, then started to run hard once the kid dropped it.  He was thrown out by a hair.  My husband (the coach) was pretty angry.  Not running out a ball is a big no, no.  He marched over to my son and told him to sit on the bench.  He sat for two innings.  There were some other parents questioning this choice to me on the sidelines.  I wasn’t questioning it.  My son held back his tears, served his time, and then reentered the game.  He is a competitive and emotional 8 year old boy when it comes to sports, so I really had no idea how being benched would impact his play.

In the last inning, he came up to bat.  The game was tied with a runner on second.  The pitcher was throwing the ball harder than any kid we have faced all year.  My son hit the ball over the center fielder’s head for a walk off, game winning, double.  The kids went crazy, piled on top of my son, and it was really exciting.

After the game, I asked my son what he learned, (yes, I’m that mom who always does that), and he said, “I learned that you always run a ball out, even if you think they are going to catch it.  And I learned that when Dad throws you fastballs in batting practice every day it will really help you get a huge hit in a game.”  He then said, “Mom, that is the best hit I have ever had in my life.  I’m going to call it my walk off hit.”  He named his hit.  I then told him that he actually learned something else too — that just because you do something wrong at one point in the game, and get punished for it by the coach, you can still come back out and make up for it on the next play.

This is just one of the many reasons that I love youth sports.  Kids learn by doing, they invest themselves in their team, they try, they fail, they get back up and try again.  The consequences are big to them but very small in life.  I think of the ball field as a life simulator.  Kids go there to learn how to practice virtue.  Obviously there are coaches and parents and other kids who may make it more difficult to teach life lessons.  And those situations are unfortunate.  I’ve seen some pretty abhorrent parent and coach behavior, and condemning that is for another post.  But more often than not, there are nuggets of gold on the ball field.  The virtues and vices of my children come alive in a competitive atmosphere, and it is a joy to see them struggle through their flaws, learn, and also have some success.  And really, that’s why all the inconveniences of rushed dinners and dirty toddlers and late bedtimes are worth it.  I love to see my kids develop and learn and yes, succeed.  And I’m trying to cherish every moment.  Off the bat, as my son’s double was flying over the center fielder’s head, I thought, “cherish this.”  I cheered loudly, smiled, and simply tried to remember everything about that moment.  Learning to cherish the parenting highs is what makes the lows tolerable.  That is true in life, and true on the ball field.

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  • Queen B

    Kellie, I love your analogy of sports being a life simulator for practicing virtue. It helps resurrect my resolve to make the commitment at some point for our kiddos. The hassle, bustle and insane competitiveness has deterred me, even though both T and I were both committed athletes in our younger years. Thanks for this.

  • Queen B, YES, insane competitiveness is an issue. I may write another post about that, but it will be much more negative in tone. We are dealing with that here, in the form of early and rather extreme sports specialization. 7 and 8 year old kids are being “scouted” for elite programs and then recruited to join them, and then being asked to quit other sports to focus on their unique talent. Parents are spending enormous amounts of time worrying about their children being cut from teams, etc., etc. Like so many things, I have to set a good tone for my family and my kids, and the people around me. Sometimes that means I walk away, other times it means I actually speak up and say that I don’t think they are doing these kids any favors by getting so competitive so early. Just because you take sports seriously and want your kids to really compete to the best of their ability, does not mean that you should be results oriented with a 7 or 8 year old kid. When I last looked at the swimming records wall at our swim club, there wasn’t a single 8-12 year old record holder that held a record after going through puberty. People seem to get so caught up in these things, and miss the forest from the trees. If you think your child has a unique talent, teach them to play the game/sport the right way, instill a good work ethic, and be careful about burnout. That is a more humbling way to be as a parent (your kid may lose out to a kid who is specializing), but I feel strongly that a little humility now can help ignite true virtue and talent in our children later. Ah, I can really ramble about this stuff…

  • Bethany

    This is why I am so grateful running favors kids with a combo of talent and drive and requires no early specialization! Our new school offers a running club in elementary and I’m going to discourage my kids from participating!! Crazy, huh?!

    For kids who might not be into the competitive thing quite yet–I encourage tae kwon do! It has been an awesome disciplinary investment for my boys. Our 2nd guy competed in an optional tournament this weekend and showed why wrestling with brothers pays off in the long run! 😉