1.15.2009

Play Ball

I just experienced my worst nightmare. What was supposed to be an evening of leisure with my son has left me heartbroken...shaken to my core. We just came home from baseball tryouts. Laugh, if you must, but, what I witnessed tonight really bothered me. Let the images flow through you as I describe what happened.

We arrived about ten minutes late to the event, an unfortunate byproduct of the military lifestyle, due to a series of mishaps with the girls minutes before dropping them off to the sitter. As we approached the fields, he noticed that the tryouts had started and immediately felt nervous, afraid that he has missed his opportunity to be on a team. I had to reassure him that he'd play on a team, this was just a formality and a way to meet the coaches. There was no meeting. Very little explanation. No friendly hello.

We arrived and the boy was the last in line, I again felt crushed for him, feeling guilty that I could have made more of an effort to be on time. Approaching the line, we see other eager players anxiously waiting their turn. But what disturbed me the most was the crowd on the other side of the field. A line of middle aged, clipboard toting neanderthals watching these young boys from behind home plate...watching and writing notes on the reactions of these sweet seven year old boys, just wanting to play ball. If that wasn't enough there was a woman videotaping it all. I wanted to scream! Where have I brought my child? How did organized child's play get so out of hand? What would possess these men to do such a thing?

I'm looking at my son, standing there among all these new faces trying to make his place. You know that feeling of trying to fit in. From behind the fence, I can see the look of wonder and excitement in his face, anticipating his performance at his turn. God, bless the innocence of youth. He turns to me and says, "Mom, this line is long. It's going to take forever." I tell him, "There's a lot of waiting in baseball. Just watch the other boys and do your best." Well, the gods must have been looking down at us because his name was called just five minutes of us standing there. With the call of his name and his small victory, he caught two of the three fly balls, my guilt melted away.

The tryouts proceeded with other tests for the boys...grounders, swinging and running to base. The neanderthals continued to scratch away on their clipboards. What could they be possibly saying about these boys? That's what gets me the most.

Where have the days of playing a round of pick up ball with friends and pretending to play as the pros gone? Again, I say, organized child's play has gotten out of hand. Let the kids be kids, grown-ups!

4 comments:

  1. I agree! Why can't the kids just have fun anymore? The same has happened to my daughter and it breaks my heart. Found you on Mom Blog Network, BTW.

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  2. It's reasons like this that I'm afraid to let my son try out for a team sport. So many adults have turned it into such a competitive race to be the best so you can actually make the team. I mean do they really think every kid is going to turn pro or something?

    For now though, we stick to "individual" sports like gymnastics. As far as learning the teamwork & leadership skills, we enrolled him in cub scouts. I think it is a balance that works.

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  3. Isn't it ridiculous? A friend of ours who coached our son in soccer and baseball on base last year, and who surely is one of the most amazing kids' coaches around, recently swore off coaching soccer after a terrible experience back in the States--with the parents.

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  4. Well, I am a "sports mom," and on the other side of the fence on this one. However, I do appreciate everyone's concern.

    I played sports for years, and I am currently the coach of a fast pitch travel ball team (my daughter's 14and under), and I am the director of a Rookie baseball league (6-8 year olds).

    "Tryouts," as it is loosly referred to around our league, are necessary to ensure the teams are more even with talent than if we drafted all of the kids without ever seeing their skill level. If we hold the tryouts and rate the skills of the kids, we can make it as even as possible.

    The "fun" that you refer to your child needing to experience, will be more likely to occur if his or her team isn't always the one losing. If the teams are somewhat equal, then they will win some and lose some. So, the gruling tryouts and the neanderthals with clipboards are a necessary evil to make the long term effect actually be "fun."

    My kids (3 boys and 1 teenage girl) all had to go through the same event you described and they loved it. To them, it was the beginning of the season, and what they had been waiting for since the previous season had ended. It's like the first big step to starting up again.

    Team sports are a great way to get kids involved and interacting with other kids, and it is a great way to teach teamwork. However, I do agree, there are certainly other ways as well.

    As parents, I think we need to pay attention to what our kids want. If they do not like to play ball and you make them go to tryouts, then they will probably hate it. They will probably have the same feeling you talk about, like they are being judged, and not have fun. If they really want to play, they probably won't even notice the coaches. They will be thinking about what they are doing and getting ready for their turn to show what they can do. I think the anxiety is mostly from parents and not the kids. I know I am anxious for my kids to do well when they get their chance. Not because I am worried the coaches won't think they are good, but just because as parents we want our kids to do well.

    I know that orgainized sports are not for everyone, but please know that the people that voluntarily run these leagues...they do have your child's best interests at heart. In fact, most of the time they are parents themselves. If you have experienced something different, I might say you should try another league, but don't give up if your kid loves it.

    Something I would suggest, is for you to volunteer in your league. That way you get to see what's going on behind the scenes, and maybe you will feel more comfortable about what is going on throughout the season.

    Anyway.... Hopefully you find this helpful. Really the coaches are there to help and not hurt.

    Actually...a secret tip from the director... if you don't want your kids to go to tryouts...they won't kick him out if he doesn't show up. Just skip it. No biggie!

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Thank you.