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