Today is Monday, September 1, 2014

Take me out to the ballgame But remember its just a game

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When Jack Norworth penned the tune, “Take me out to the ballgame,” I wonder if he pictured a little league set of 11 year olds; mouths stuffed with Big League Chew, black out under their eyes and grass stains on white baseball pants?

Like a lot of you, our spring and summer months are packed full of sports. When my oldest started playing ball, I wasn’t prepared for how much time we would spend eating ballpark faire like hot dogs, hamburgers and sunflower seeds. I wasn’t prepared for how much money we would spend on sporting equipment. I didn’t understand the importance of not washing a pair of socks after a win (he tried to convince me that this ‘rule’ applied to underwear too but I had to draw the line somewhere).  I was also unprepared to learn so much from my kid’s coaches.

As parents, we’ve all experienced the agony of a bad coach. We’ve bitten our tongues when our child isn’t treated fairly. We’ve watched other kids get more playing time, better positions or extra coaching.  But almost two years ago, a funny thing happened on the way to basketball practice. My oldest was excited. In fact, he didn’t even complain about putting down his video game so we could leave. Shocking!

After several practices and ballgames with our new coaches, I started to realize why my little boy had improved his game. Our coaches calmly encouraged the boys if a mistake was made or hoisted a player in the air for making a shot. What caught my eye more than the way our coaches behaved was the way other coaches behaved. It’s easy to get worked up when our kids are out on that court or field totally at the mercy of their skills. But, the more I watched these two men with our boys the more “perspective” I gained. Sure I could stand up and shout, “Are you blind REF!” Besides garnering horrified stares from other parents what’s that really accomplishing? We’re talking about 4th grade basketball plays, not an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

After basketball season ended, my oldest was drafted to the little league baseball team of our favorite coaches. This was his first year of kid pitch and after hearing his grandmother caution him (REPEATEDLY) about the devastation of getting hit with a baseball, he worried about the possibility of that happening to him. 

By the end of that first season my son had been hit with the baseball countless times and totally brushed it off! While all the kids were making enormous strides in their game, the coaches were right there offering advice and encouragement. There were several occasions during a game that an opposing coach would yell at a player for making a mistake, berate the umpire for a bad call or stomp around the field acting like a two year old in need of a nap or time out. When one of our players made a mistake, our coach would pull the player aside and explain how to improve. If our coach disagreed with a call, he would take his rule book to the umpire and calmly state his case. And if a player got upset about striking out and started “stomping” back to the dugout, that player got a stern look from the coach and quickly straightened up.

Sometimes people don’t realize how much they impact the life of a child or a parent for that matter. I’m not sure anyone has ever told our coaches (Troy, John and now Scott) what a great job they’re doing. I thought all those hours my husband spends playing catch, throwing and batting with our boys was just goof off time. I also thought our coaches were just teaching my kid different plays in baseball. Turns out they were teaching more than just how to run bases or hit a ball. They’re teaching our boys that it’s more important to give your all and lose than barely try and win. So whether it’s on the ball field or in the workplace, be a good sport. It’s just a game after all and life is not.

You can reach Becky Andrews at becky@wilsonlivingmagazine.com

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