Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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?