Our 17 year old is about to start the spring baseball season. His goal at this point is to prepare for college ball.. We have set some goals and boundaries, and he is well aware that there are no guarantees, but the journey will be fun and rewarding in and of itself. Having 3 boys and an x-sports reporter husband, we know ALL about sports around here, and we have participated in a few… but baseball is numero uno.
We have had our kids in recreational sports, travel leagues, and on school teams. My husband has been a team manager, assistant coach, and spectator. I have even subjected myself to the role of team mom, and, inadvertently learned how to keep a score book, which has resulted in a crippling dent to my sideline sociability. We all have run score boards, sold BBQ tickets, candy and coupons, and have done our time sweating to death in a concession booth.
Recreational sports programs are a unique, cult like experience. You have your super stars, and your not so super stars. The jersey number is sacred, and you know who’s there by the decals on the mini vans and SUV’s in the parking lot.. There’s plenty of nepotism and partiality. Every good ballpark has their share of screamers and cussers, as well as angry and bad parents. Over the years, we have been pretty blessed with some awesome families on our teams… for the most part. I can tell you that many “player drafts” take the parents behavior and support into full consideration. No one wants the “banned” or trouble parent, even if their kid is a pretty good player.
Last year, our team was delayed for our field time, because a player in the game before ours lost his temper over a tough call. The player tried to hurt the umpire, then, once ejected from the game, and the park, his father hit him in the head which resulted in the boy returning the favor, but with his cleats – thus, the authorities were called. Really? We have seen players purposely trip, hit and push other players, to only be rewarded by their coach. Years ago, we even witnessed 2 coaches that were on the same team, get into a full blown fist fight in the dugout… in front of about 22 ten year olds and their families.
With all of that being said, having your children play recreational sports can be a very fun and rewarding experience. Seriously. Your kids can learn to be a team player and a friend. If your coach is good, the players will understand the actual game that they are playing. They may also realize that working hard and setting goals is good, and they can hopefully learn to win with humbleness, and lose with dignity. Unfortunately though, the trend of prideful, out of control parents, kids, and coaches, is becoming more and more common. That is not fun or rewarding …for anyone. Good, responsible adults seem to be the minority and bad examples are being set.
We need a reset, and it all starts at home. First, know that whatever your priorities are as a family, will set the foundation of priorities for your kids… If sports take precedence over going to Church, don’t be surprised when your kids grow up and keep that standard. If the sports schedule deems higher importance over the rest of the families schedule, don’t be surprise if your kid thinks they are more important… If parents encourage, and remember that all the players, on both teams, are just young people, the mean trash talk should dissipate… Sports can be awesome, but it’s even better if long term perspective isn’t lost. Set your boundaries and goals ahead of time. That will save you from reactive parenting and issues later. Trust me.
There are hundred’s of thousands of kids playing sports all over the world today. Less than 1% will actually make it to the big leagues. They are kids. The shaping of their character is far more important than how far they can hit a ball. Teach them to play, and give it their best, but let’s put sportsmanship first and skill second. Remember, it’s just a GAME that begins when the umpire yells, “PLAY ball!” Really.