My Little Dude played his first organized game of T-ball this Saturday. There is nothing quite like four year olds—new to the field—swinging bats with abandon, freezing when the ball finally bounces from the tee, forgetting there’s a home plate, and chasing down balls in herds. Without a doubt, the four innings could easily be characterized as a comedy of errors marked by small-but-big-feeling victories.
When watching these little boys give it a go around the bases, I couldn’t help but reminisce about when I was a baby soccer player. I remember scoring a goal or two and blocking a few more. It was cool to be the goalie. Picking out a winning post-game snack was a shining moment. Did you know Fun Fruits were the path to toddler popularity? But what really sticks out in my mind is how good it felt to be part of team. Although I didn’t know it then, it proved one of those formative lessons about participating and feeling like a valued contributor to something greater than me. I was excited for him to enjoy the same. Ah, rosy recollections and wishes…
…Then, a parent coaching his son from the sideline brought my daydreaming to a halt. He critiqued his son’s form. Corrected his missteps from his first time at bat. And continued to do this throughout the entire game. His constant commands even made me worry for a brief moment that he and perhaps others were judging my child’s athletic shortcomings, which of course are expected when one is brand new at any sport. I couldn’t have that, so I made a few mental notes of things we could work on at home. I even texted a few practice plans to my husband.
Why was this baseball dad making such Type-A tendencies and insecurities surface?
Of course, I want the Little Dude to succeed at sports. And it would be great if he showed signs of being a natural. But I want him to arrive there on his own terms, merits, and time. I’m more concerned with him being the best he can possibly be, not being the best at the expense of fun and other important schooling. Commitment, cooperation, coordination, discipline, success, failure, perseverance, improvement, and self-confidence are far more valuable life lessons than batting 1000 as a toddler—or ever. I truly believe this.
Yet, there she was. The competitor inside eking out. I don’t think I realized what a stronghold American socialization regarding sports and winning had on my thinking, even if subconscious. It’s gross. I was disappointed for even entertaining these thoughts for a hot minute. I definitely don’t want to be one of those crazy, monster moms who demand an unrealistic level of play from their children, putting unnecessary stress on them. There will not be a TLC reality show about me. Promise.
I’m glad I could see this and stop it, so it didn’t taint the experience for both of us. There was nothing better than seeing him hit the ball and make it to first base after three very-focused tries. And I’ll never forget the gusto he showed when chasing down a grounder and holding on to it for dear life, as his teammates dog piled on top of him for their chance to grab it. He had a lot of fun while discovering his abilities because he didn’t feel any pressure to live up to expectations other than his own.
Although I don’t know that dad, I’m sure he’s driven to provide “feedback” because he wants the best for his son. But I wish he knew to keep his mouth shut. It’s T-ball, not stress ball. And I suspect he hasn’t heard that Norway has won more Olympic medals (including gold!) than any other country in the winter games, which is attributed to the egalitarian nature of youth sports.
How do you behave with your kids in sports?
~ The Other Sarah