Archives For baseball

About a year ago, I wrote a piece about how my son was shifting (youth sports) careers as an 11-year old. It was hard to write, not because the words were difficult to articulate, but because it’s a somewhat touchy subject.

Several parents reached out to me following that post to say they had been through the same process (of switching teams) or were on the verge of going through it with their own son or daughter.

I wasn’t able to gaze into a crystal ball back then to see if it would all work out for my son…we just researched what was offered in our area, talked about all of our options, and trusted our gut instincts.

Fast forward one year to now and I can clearly see how great of a decision it’s been for him. But more on that in a sec.

A mom recently contacted me through GiveTheGameBack to say that she was shocked to learn her daughter wanted to quit softball after several successful playing years. The mom was once a softball player herself and gained many valuable life lessons through the sport. She was worried her daughter was already burnt out at a young age before she’d even had the chance to experience her (potentially) best playing days.

I offered several paragraphs of feedback, but here’s the part I really hoped she would contemplate, “My next question is a very important one: How intrinsically motivated to succeed and/or naturally competitive is your daughter? One of the biggest realities I’ve had to accept is that each of my kids, although all ‘formed’ by my own and my husband’s DNA, is unique in how they approach sports.”

Without knowing her daughter’s individual situation, I can’t assume that her daughter has completely lost the love of the game. She could feel burnt out like her mom feared, or want to quit because she thinks she’s inferior, or she might have different priorities in her life as compared to a few years ago, or who knows? I’ve found the only ways for a parent to know how their child feels is to never assume anything and by discussing the child’s goals through open and honest dialogue.

The other piece of advice I added, because I’ve had to grow up along with my kids in my own thinking and behaving is, “If my dad was a Chief Financial Officer and I grew up knowing that he loved math and wanted me to be his prodigy, there’s no amount of pushing in the world that would transform me into someone who loves math.”

Back to my son.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt following last season that he still wanted to play baseball. How did I know? By asking him…many times.

If he would have said he didn’t want to play, I would have pressed to find out what he was intrinsically motivated to do. How would he measure success or growth? How could I help him get there?

My son loves playing baseball (and basketball and football) with friends. He cares if he wins or loses, but his mood and demeanor don’t plummet in the face of adversity. He hates letting people down and loves making people laugh. And I’m not a betting woman, but if I was, I’d wager he has 847 different things on his mind at any given second…and that doesn’t magically shut off with the first pitch.

Knowing all of these things about him, he accepted/filled a spot on a team this summer that brought together a hodgepodge of players, many of whom had played ball for years but also had never competed together before.

His team’s coaches took every game seriously without sacrificing the fun, helped my son and others with their mental approach to the sport, taught them how to recover from setbacks, led by example, and promoted a team culture of mutual respect and reliance upon one another – all of the great life lessons one can garner through athletics.

I have zero doubt my son will remember this summer for years to come…for both what’s taken place on AND off the field.

Through this new team, he has gained a best friend – unexpected icing on the cake! I can’t put into words how amazing it feels to see your kid “click” with a teammate who shares the same quirky interests and who comes from a family very similar to your own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My advice to all the parents of youth baseball players this time of year remains the same: Commit to a team that makes sense for your individual child. (No one is giving out scholarships or scouting your 12-year old. This is an age to learn and have fun.)

Don’t get trapped into a fixed mindset or allow fear of the unknown to paralyze you. Adults tend to muddy the waters even with the best of intentions sometimes.

I know I had to learn that the definition of a successful season isn’t always measured in wins and losses. A season lasts a finite number of games. A great friendship has the potential of lasting a lot longer.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Advertisements

Let me be the first to admit, I’ve learned to tame my competitive nature over the years and make the sporting experience more about my kids than myself. I like to say I’m a work in progress.

I’ve recounted My Moment on GiveTheGameBack. I remember that critical point in time when I realized I need to reevaluate why I was at the ball field supporting my child and have subsequently changed my mentality and approach to the GAME.

However, prior to that moment, there was an episode when I behaved less than ideally in front of my children. I think it’s important to explain (not justify) my past behavior to let you know that I, like everyone, learn from my mistakes. For those who refuse to admit ever crossing the line at a youth sporting competition in the name of your budding athlete, I counter with two thoughts: 1. I bow down to you and your self-control and 2. I don’t believe you. (not even for a second)

There we were, the Woodard family, back in fall ball several years ago: me, my husband, and our three children.

Allow me to set the stage. The “regular season” for baseball in the Midwest runs from late April to early July. Fall ball, in terms of scheduled games, lasts half the total duration but feels like an eternity to suffer through. The number of teams competing is less, the quality of competition isn’t always as great, and the double-headers that typically round off an otherwise restful weekend are grueling.

OK, I fully admit I am already making excuses, but bear with me.

My oldest was only 10 at the time. Ten-year-old boys can best be described as fourth grade, 4-ft somethings, with less than laser-like focus. While they all generally have an interest in winning, the majority of them compete in fall ball to hang out with their buddies. (Coaches will tell you it’s because the boys want to stay active and improve their game in the off season.)

My son’s team was down by at least a half dozen runs and, in 10-year old baseball…especially fall ball, that’s a deep valley out of which to climb. It was late in the game so they ran the risk of losing by the “mercy rule” (which they might as well rename the “parental sanity rule”). Definition of the “mercy rule”: Once a team is up by 8 runs after 5 complete innings over their competition, the game is automatically over.

My son’s teammate managed to make it to second base…probably on a wild pitch, or just a normal pitch since few 10-year old catchers are strong enough to throw out a runner stealing second base.

It was very late in the game and the chances of my kid’s team mounting a comeback were slimmer than Kim Kardashian going a full day without snapping a selfie. Not high. You get the picture.

Low and behold, I hear the opposing team’s coach yell out instructions and then see the pitcher throw to the short stop at second base in an attempted pickoff play. When the pickoff attempt didn’t work, instead of tossing the ball back to the pitcher, the short stop walks it to the mound.

I instantly knew what was happening. The ol’ hidden ball trick. I knew what was going down because I’ve pulled that same play in my college alumni game against the current players.

If you’ve never seen the hidden ball trick, watch the YouTube clip below.

My son’s teammate assumes the pitcher has the ball, takes his normal leadoff, and falls for the play (because he’s 10!) as the opposing team’s short stop tags him out, much to the amusement of their coach.

Here’s a confession: If I was that kid at shortstop (or anyone else on that opposing team), I would have thought that was the greatest trick play ever.

Because I was not that 10-year old shortstop and was instead the mom of one of the boys getting their butts kicked by a team coached by a dad who cared more about trick plays than teachable moments, I didn’t find it quite as amusing. And I let him know about it. I think my exact less-than-mature-and-not-very-thought-out words were something like this:

GOOD JOB, COACH! WAY TO PERFECT THE HIDDEN BALL TRICK! YOU MUST BE SO PROUD!

(Lame, I know. But I’ve never been the best at articulating anger.)

If your team is only winning by one or two runs and it’s the championship game, you could probably make me understand your rationale (even if I don’t agree with it). When you are about to run-rule another team, I don’t buy your excuse.

Not to be outdone by a loud-mouthed mom, the coach in turn had one of his players steal home in mid-pitch when they were up to bat next.

I just shook my head and thought to myself, “What a (insert male body part) move.”

But here’s the thing, I was no better than that coach that day. I ran my mouth from the stands and it didn’t make the situation any better. Luckily, my son never heard what I yelled, but that didn’t make me feel any less foolish in hindsight

Their team still lost. My son wouldn’t have cared that much about the game’s outcome because he’d already been competing in sports (even at the age of 10) for a few years and he learned that, in sports and life, you win some and you lose some.

If I ran into that same coach today, I would freely admit to being as crazy competitive as he is, and I would hope we would share a laugh together. I’d tell him that he should check out what I’m trying to do on GiveTheGameBack.

And when he’d be pulling up the website on his phone, I’d sucker punch him when he wasn’t looking and yell out TRICK PLAY! as he was attempting to regain his breath. Kidding…I would only contemplate doing that. I am working on thinking before I act these days.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Shop page image

Let’s all gather round. I’m talking to you, parents of children who compete in sports.

I don’t know if it’s the same in your household, but my family is currently in a sweet spot known as the “off season,” when the only thing on our plates is weekly practice in preparation for summer baseball. My kids are actually adhering to a real bedtime routine. My husband and I have sat across from one another at our own dining room table and had a conversation while enjoying dinner together. I’ve both watched my DVR’d shows and napped unapologetically. It’s been surreal.

My shoulders are a little less tense. My speed is a bit slower. My breaths are much deeper.

Yet part of me misses the frenzy. The dirt and sunflower seeds are calling.

There’s a reason why the beginning of every sports season is exciting. Everyone starts with a 0-0 record and a pretty good attitude.

I’m here to tell you…the joy does not have to rise or fall in direct correlation with your kid’s success or lack there of. You can control your outlook in spite of external influences.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the study performed by Rob Miller and Bruce E. Brown, who run a coaching consultation business called Proactive Coaching LLC? For three decades, Miller and Brown asked college athletes about their parents’ behaviors; specifically, what their parents did right versus what their parents did wrong in an effort to support their budding stars?

The athletes overwhelmingly responded that the feedback that resonated the most positively with them consisted of six, simple, yet incredibly powerful words:

Top athletes reported that the most uplifting phrase they heard their parents tell them time and time again was ‘I love to watch you play.’

The worst thing that parents did, in the opinion of their kids, was critiquing or questioning them immediately following the game or competition.

So, to me, the easiest way to ensure I (and you) continue to feel positive as our budding athletes transition from the practice season to the actual season is by reminding them how much we love to watch them play. And that phrase should be the honest to goodness truth when it comes out of our mouths, regardless of the game outcome.

If we don’t mean it, then why invest the time, money, effort, and – most importantly – our children’s emotional well being by having them pursue sports?

I no longer routinely ask my kids if they had fun at the end of every game. Losing doesn’t feel fun. I don’t expect to see them muster up a smile after every final out.

But I also want them to know how to to recovery gracefully from setbacks, to not hang their heads, and to get back up when they’ve fallen.

As parents, we need to be able to hold ourselves to the same level of accountability.

Because, in the end, we must remember how much we not only love to watch them succeed, but how much we love to watch our children play. They need to be allowed to do the latter before they are ever capable of doing the former.

Written by Heidi Woodard