Baseball season started this week. Can I just honestly say that I hate baseball season? Well, I do. Sitting on the cold, hard, metal bleachers in the cold/rainy/damp/buggy/too hot/too sunny ballpark with no bathroom is not my idea of a good time. I’d bring a book or my computer, but then I’d be considered unsociable by the other parents…so I sit there making idle chit-chat and cheer “A” when he is up to bat.
But it’s not about me, is it? “A” looooooves baseball and that means that I have to loooooove it too. Or at least pretend that I do. While sitting on the butt-numbing bleachers, I have the opportunity to observe the good, bad and ugly in humanity. You learn a lot about people at kids sporting events. In the past five seasons that “A” has played ball, we’ve seen some crazy stuff, not necessarily from the kids, and that’s why I think this sign should be posted at every baseball field in America.
1. These are kids. Last season, my son’s team made it to one of the final playoff games. It was a very close game and as they got up to bat in the final innings, a woman (the mother of a child on the opposing team) stood behind home plate and heckled the batters until one of the coaches pulled her aside and asked her to stop. You have to ask yourself, what kind of person heckles nine and ten-year old children? Disgraceful.
2. This is a game. It’s supposed to be fun, the kids are supposed to get some exercise and learn how to play together as a team. I’ve seen parents get so self-involved in winning or losing that they completely lose perspective – and often their temper – which results in the kids feeling bad about the game, their skills and themselves.
3. Coaches are volunteers. Most often they are parents who work full-time jobs and they give up their evenings and weekends to work with the kids. They bring water, administer first aid and mend wounded egos when the kids strike out. They have to listen to parents who are upset about their kid’s position in the outfield or place in the batting line-up. But not every coach is a great mentor. A few seasons ago, we had a coach who just didn’t care; he wouldn’t show up for games, never called a practice, and, at the final game of the season, told a team of 8-year-olds that they “sucked.” Fortunately, that’s not the norm, but it does happen.
4. Umpires are human. Admittedly, I’ve seen some bad calls, but the ump is the decision maker on the field. Just as in life, sometimes there are some bad decisions that you just have to live with. Better to learn this now than later.
5. You do not play for the (insert your favorite major league ball team here). This is recreational sports for children – not a professional game with multi-million dollar contracts at stake. Don’t take it so seriously.
As a parent, I believe that it’s important for kids to be involved in athletics, but there seems to be some undercurrent of extreme competitiveness that wasn’t there when I was a kid. Instead of just recreational leagues, there are travel teams and triple-A teams that start when the players are in third grade. That’s just 8 years old! The competition to get a coveted spot on one of these teams is fierce – and not just among the kids. When did all this happen…and more importantly, why? Are we grooming our children for college scholarships as early as grade three? And what is the price that the child pays? Sports injuries and physical therapy at 11? Being branded by the other children as “not athletic” if the child doesn’t make the triple-A lacrosse team? Parents are spending hundreds (even thousands) of dollars on equipment and private training and their weekends travelling throughout New England for soccer tournaments – for kids sports!
Even my own son’s schedule during the spring seems a little too much – in my opinion, five days a week is a little excessive for a 10 year-old. But he enjoys playing and I’m glad that after a winter spent indoors, he’s getting outside for some exercise and fresh air. He loves being part of the team and the camaraderie that goes along with it. Those are the things that are important. That’s I want him to take away from his experience and remember about his childhood, because that’s what playing the game is really all about.
Meanwhile…does anyone know where I can get one of those bleacher cushions?