Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Wild, Wild World of Sports

I've been wanting to post for some time now about the crazy world of little league sports. The problem is: I'm not really sure what I want to say, I have so many mixed feelings regarding it. It used to be that I loved watching my boys play, win or lose. I loved watching them get better at skills and the pride on their faces as they achieved certain things. Sure, they would mess up and make mistakes, but that was part of it too and it was OK. But, as I sit at baseball games where grown men fight over where to put chalk lines, I can't help but wonder what we are even doing being involved. Rob even overheard two coached talking about parents who ask why their kid never gets to play such and such a position. The coach says, "I think to myself, your kid is never going to be a 1st baseman, so why should I put him in 1st base". He's talking about 7 & 8 year olds of course.

Ryan plays on a team that is undefeated. He will most likely win the championship this weekend without ever once losing a game. Great, right? The only problem is that the coach is so focused on winning, that Ryan isn't given a chance to try out new positions and he's so nervous up to bat, he can hardly hit the ball. I like Ryan's coach, really. But, I think it's so unfortunate. This is only his second season of ever playing baseball, and his confidence is shot. He doesn't even really look forward to going. And, inside my heart breaks for him. He's 7 years old for heaven's sake! Taking this thing too seriously is terrible. Listen, maybe 1 or 2 of these kids will get a baseball scholarship to college. Maybe. But, the self esteem blows to the others, who are told at 7, "you'll never be a first baseman" will last much, much longer.

Jonathan moved up to a travel soccer league this year. For the past several seasons, Jonathan has been one of the most valuable players on his in-house team and has gotten a lot of playing time. It has made him a better player. In travel, everyone is good, so he subs like everyone else. That was an adjustment for me, but it's OK now. Jonathan's team is 1-3-1. Probably not going to win any championships, but his coaches are committed to player development and realize that these kids are 10, and have lots of growth ahead of them. Jonathan's skills have improved alot. But, some parents wonder why we don't win more games and are starting to flap their gums a little bit about what should be done differently. Like Jonathan's coach said, "It shouldn't be that way [competitive to the point of leaving players behind], but parents want to win."

I don't know I guess I'd rather just have my boys learn some new skills, learn sportsmanship, have fun, make friends, learn to work as a team, learn to hang in there and work hard despite the score, learn to do your best, and then, maybe after all of that, win some games. I would rather have my son feel good about himself on a losing team, then feel stressed out on a winning team. I know I sound like a softie, afterall as men they will have to learn to compete and win in the business world, right? Maybe...but, I guess at 10 and 7, I'm leaning more toward letting them be boys, then making them be men. My sons are more than the sum total of their athletic abilities. I'll close with this poem:

He pulls on a helmet, picks up the bat,
and walks to the plate, "gotta hit and that's that."
The crowd starts to yell, the game's on the line,
last inning, two outs, the score's nine to nine.

Dad yells, "Go get it," Mom wrings her hands,
coach hollers, "hit it," but alone there he stands.

Heros are made in seconds such as this,
but he's just a little boy, what if he should miss?
Years after this game's ended and he's little no more,
will he remember the outcome or even the score?

No he'll have forgotten if he was out, hit, or a run,
he'll only look back on his friends and, hopefully, the fun.

So cheer this boy on, alone with his fate;
help him remember with fondness this stand at the plate.
And when the game's over, this boy can stand tall,
for you've helped him prepare to give it his all!

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