Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baseball Blues

My son, Big C, recently started playing baseball. After 2 seasons of t-ball, he’s now in the major leagues. This is a whole new ball game. And I’m not all that impressed.

The coaches’ sons are clearly the most skilled players, and there’s no mistaking the blatant favoritism. The other night at practice, while the rest of the boys formed groups and patiently waited for their turns to catch and throw with the volunteer dads, the coaches’ sons played catch with each other under the watchful eye of the slightly scary assistant coach (henceforth referred to as Scary Ass Coach).

I watched as Scary Ass Coach scolded his son for not executing a perfect throw. Then, after the boy threw another imperfect ball, I watched as Scary Ass Coach ordered him to run a lap around the field as punishment. THE BOY IS 6 YEARS OLD!

Then there’s the issue of practice time. Practices are twice a week from 6:30-8 PM. My children’s bedtime is 7:00. When I asked the head coach’s wife why practice for such young children is held so late, she explained that her husband coaches 2 high school teams, and he chose the latest time slot to accommodate his job. Well, it seems to me that he forgets our boys are not teenagers and don’t require the intensity of a high school team. The other night, when coach arrived 30 minutes late and team pictures cut into practice time, he decided to continue pitching past 8:00 to compensate for lost time. IT WAS PITCH BLACK AND 55 DEGREES! (I applaud the mother who announced that her son had homework to do and hauled him off the field before he was dismissed.)

I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years. I competed at the national level and swam in college at a Division I school before my shoulders blew out and I was forced to retire. So I know very well how the world of athletics works. But my son is in kindergarten. He’s not training for the World Series. He’s supposed to be having fun.

At 6 years old, Big C is one of the youngest and smallest players on his team. He’s also one of the worst. (I love my son dearly, but pro ball is not in his future.) But if he even realizes that the other boys are more skilled than he is, he doesn’t seem to care because he claims he loves the sport. His enthusiasm is the only reason I haven’t yanked him out and allowed him one more season in t-ball to improve his skills.

I don’t care for Scary Ass Coach, and I feel the head coach has overextended himself to the detriment of my son’s team. Last week, I spoke privately with both coaches, explaining that my husband is deployed and I’d like some input on how I can help Big C at home. Honestly, my primary goal was to garner a little sympathy so that maybe the coaches would pay some more attention to my father-less son, especially considering that Scary Ass Coach is retired military and should be empathetic. But it hasn’t seemed to work because Big C is still getting very little of their attention if any at all. Shouldn’t the kids who need the most help be the kids who get the most attention? Can you imagine if teachers focused their attention solely on their gifted students and ignored the struggling ones?

Big C has expressed no desire to quit, and unless baseball practices start inducing anxiety attacks, I have no intention of allowing him to quit. I believe a large part of being involved in sports is learning to follow through on commitments. I also have no intention of babying him or trying to shelter him from possible embarrassment or ridicule. That’s an unavoidable part of life.

My main concern is what happens when he starts seeing what I’m seeing? What do I tell him when he notices that other boys get more attention than he does? What do I tell him when he notices he isn’t the greatest player, or even worse, the other boys make fun of him for it? I don’t want my own distaste for the coaches and their teaching methods to rub off on him, but I also don’t want these men to permanently discolor his rose-colored glasses, turning him off to sports at the ripe age of 6.

As a former athlete, I know the effects a coach’s attitude can have on a child. As a mother, I want my son to thrive and gain confidence regardless of his abilities. At this age, I think sports should be about the kids having fun and learning the skills they need to succeed as they get older. I don’t think this is the time to make them run laps as punishment and practice until they can’t see the ball in the darkness and their teeth are chattering from the cold.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any similar coach stories either as a parent or an athlete yourself?  Do you have any words of wisdom for me?



11 comments:

  1. Ugh. Sounds like Scary Ass Coach (or SAC, as I shall now call him) needs a good kick in the sack.

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  2. Um, you should drop by my blog from yesterday and today:

    Suzanne's Blog-Mommy Moves Again

    I talk about the bizarre world of sports!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have no words of wisdom, but I appreciate the post - I'm terrified of this as well! My husband is a born athlete and my kids both love playing everything, but we haven't got to the organized level yet and I don't know if I'll be able to stand it - my precious little guys...!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, I have. I helped coach my nephew's pitchball team a couple years ago with my sister, brother, and parents. We were the Bad News Bears type team, and of course, the person in charge of the baseball league had the best team.

    For our team, we made practice fun, and we never yelled at our kids. The Best team, however, got yelled at on and off the field.

    The parents took notice and thanked us for our kind coaching styles.

    Now my nephew is in a different league, and all the coaches are very supportive of each team. It's a lot more enjoyable for the kids and the parents in the crowd.

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  5. Wow...so glad we are still in t-ball!
    This does not sound fun at all and is something I dread in the future.

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  6. It is too bad that these horror youth sports' stories don't seem to go away. I totally get how you feel. My husband and I are both college coaches, but we rarely jump into the ring as the youth coaches for our kids. There is so much that can be learned from the youth experience, and I am finding that I am still very much a student.

    This past hockey season I found myself biting my tongue much more than in previous years. My husband and I vented with each other, but we never shared our concerns with our 9-year-old. We were sure he was going to start to notice what we did, but amazingly, he never did. Only after the season was done did he say anything, and we addressed it then.

    Maybe you'll be blessed and Big C will stay clueless. Stick with your gut, and worry about the best way to be the MOM Big C needs, and trust that, no matter how bad they may be, the coaches will offer one life lesson or another.

    Hang in there...and keep us posted.

    ReplyDelete
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  8. I wish I had some advice for you but my little one is still to young for sports. Honestly if it were me I would try to deal with it as long as your son is having fun. Once it stops becoming fun for him then you can move on from there. Good luck!

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  9. I totally know what how you feel. I think at that age- they don't really notice those kids of things- unless they are asked to sit on the bench and watch everyone else practice. It is a tricky situation because the coaches are volunteers and a lot times the league is hard pressed to find enough coaches for all the kids. At the same time- the coaches need to remember that these are kids and the goal is to teach them good sportsmanship, good skills, and most importantly- to enjoy the sport. I don't think they even keep score at that age- do they? My advice would be if that the situation gets worse and you feel that your son is being neglected- complain to the people in charge or ask for your son to be placed on a different team. Hmm- now you have given me something to blog about- sports overseas... lol

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  10. One of my ex boyfriend's stepdad's was his coach when we were growing up, and he was like Scary Ass Coach. It ended up being that my ex didn't want to go to practices, didn't want to go to games, and eventually stopped playing. :-/

    If Big C does notice it, which he may not, I would just be honest with him that sometimes when a kid's dad coaches a team, he tends to let them do more of what they want, rather than being fair. But since you're being honest, I would also let him know how that isn't nice and everyone should be treated the same. I'm all about 95% honesty with my kids, unless of course, its something that will harm them or change their view of one of us. :)

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  11. This is a very accurate representation of what is wrong with coaching today. Speaking as one who has coached on many levels (including players who played professional ball), keep the process simple and make it fun. This coach will single-handedly taint a love for the sport for many of the kids you describe.

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