Archives For softball

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.

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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

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Do you remember a time growing up when you made a mistake from which you weren’t sure your pride would be able to fully recover? A mistake that not only embarrassed yourself, but those who counted you?

I remember one. It happened on the softball field when I was in college. In my adulthood looking back, I can appreciate how insignificant it was in the grand scheme of life. But it hurt nonetheless at the time.

I remember it was the final inning and third base was occupied by a player from our in-state rival. I remember a power hitter was up to bat with two outs. That same power hitter did something unexpected…she got under a pitch and popped it up to shallow right center.

I remember we were one out away from sealing a big victory. As I sprinted backwards from my position at second base looking up at the sky to track down the ball, I remember hearing my friend and teammate, the right-fielder, yell for the catch as she raced in towards the lip of the grass. At least I thought she called for the ball.

Although realizing I had just as good of a chance to snag that pop fly as she did, I immediately veered off course to avoid a collision. And that’s when it happened. The ball dropped between us.

Game over.

I saw the look of exasperation on her face. I saw the disappointment in my pitcher’s eyes. I saw the opposite team erupt in celebration.

And I was angry.

Angry at myself for not taking control as an upperclassman. Angry for not finishing a play that we had dedicated countless hours of practice to perfect. Angry that we did everything better than our opponents that game except for one stupid play.

I think back to that moment and often wonder how much worse I would have felt had that mistake been recorded and replayed over and over again for everyone to see. Luckily for me, I competed in a world that was far less technologically connected than the one my kids are expected to navigate.

Sports fans remember certain defining, cringe-worthy moments.

Bill Buckner 1986 World Series Game 6 “Between the Legs”

Chris Webber’s 1993 NCAA Championship “Infamous Timeout”

Fred Brown’s “Inexplicable Pass” to James Worthy in 1982 NCAA Championship

It is probable if you have kids who compete in sports that your son or daughter will be put in the position to single-handedly win or lose their games. And despite the fact that games are won or lost by a series of plays by both teams, fans seem to remember the final plays over everything else.

I challenge adults to think about times when they felt as if they were falling short in some aspect of their life: Struggling to keep their spouse happy; spearheading a work project that resulted in higher costs and fewer profits; failing to deliver upon a promise to their child; gaining too much weight; not taking enough time to rest; the list goes on and on.

It is true what they say: With age comes wisdom. We have the luxury of knowing that storm clouds will eventually pass. Many budding athletes aren’t old enough to have that same level of understanding. Children run the risk of only seeing darkness on auto loop. Errors are broadcast for all to see and mock.

Resist the temptation to only shower love on your child when they succeed and are being glorified.

Resist the temptation to stand across from their opposition in joyous celebration as young heads hang low.

Resist the temptation to immerse yourself too deeply into your child’s life, for it is theirs to live.

Resist the temptation to judge yourself or other parents based on the amount of trophies our kids accumulate.

I am 100% confident that my own children will learn a great deal from their setbacks as I have with mine. Memories will always trump medals in my opinion.

Don’t waste your breath (or dignity) screaming at anyone at your kid’s next competition. This is their book to write. Flip the pages and follow along. Enjoy the story.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I vaguely recall what it feels like to have a normal summer. Summers gone by involved my husband, Ryan, and I spending time with friends, playing slow pitch softball or sand volleyball, grilling out, and chilling out.

We then mutually agreed to welcome three little time suckers into our lives. And, better yet, we agreed to raise them as mini versions of ourselves. So, to answer your inevitable questions: Yes, I do know what I signed up for and, no, I am not expecting you to feel sorry for my self-imposed schedule.

Baseball was a sport that Ryan tolerated. It was an off-season activity that he played just to keep himself occupied. As one of the most impatient people I know, Ryan could never embrace the pace of baseball as a player. It actually makes me laugh to think about him standing in the outfield as a young man, shagging balls for his teammates, staring blankly into space, and questioning what he was doing with his life.

I, on the other hand, looked forward to softball season every summer as a player. While sports like basketball and volleyball were fun and challenging, there is something about being able to be outside with your friends, getting dirty, and daring a pitcher or hitter to attempt to smoke a ball by you. This isn’t the first time I’ve argued that the game of baseball/softball is the best sport on earth.

Fun fact: Baseball is the only sport where the defense controls the ball.

Now that I have two boys playing a combined 100 games in the summer and their little sister who has the distinct pleasure of being dragged to most of them, I can tell you this: Baseball is NOT always the best sport on earth to experience as a parent of a player.

As we enter the month of June (baseball season in the Midwest begins in late April and runs through early July), I know I’m not alone when I say that – despite the fact I haven’t personally played a single inning, I am tired…exhausted actually.

For those of you who are in the same boat as we are with multiple kids involved in athletics, here’s a top 10 list for parents on how to survive a summer of youth sports:

#10 Say yes to any and all invitations to let your youngest child go to a friend’s house. A mom of one of my daughter’s friends asked if my daughter could come over for a play date today. I had to control the urge to give that mom an extra long, awkward embrace when I went to retrieve my child after I watched two games of uninterrupted baseball.

#9 Beg the grandparents to take one of your boys off your hands – divide and conquer transportation to/from baseball tournaments, uniform coordination, and fast food consumption.

#8 Talk yourself out of feeling like the worst mom on the planet because of your inability to clone yourself. You are going to miss out on a few big plays in order to see others.

#7 When the kids aren’t playing up to their potential on the field, do me a favor: Look to your right. Look to your left. Remind yourself that you are not alone in your misery.

#6 Remember what it was like to be a kid. There is a difference between embracing the present and reliving the past. I freely admit that I do a little of both.

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field.

Win or lose? Who cares as long as we get to ride the Rhino to drag the field.

#5 Be appreciative of the time that coaches take investing in your child. You may not agree with every piece of strategy they deploy, but every move is made with the full intention of making the team better today than what they were yesterday.

#4 Resist the urge to correct umpires. I’ve come to realize you will run into three types of umps: Those who can tolerate the game, those who love the game, and those who think they are God’s gift to the game. Each type will make mistakes because they are human.

#3 Walk away from drama. Don’t cause it yourself. After all, it’s a GAME. It’s a seemingly never-ending one, but it is a GAME.

#2 Be proud of the boys who succeed and build up the boys who don’t. Whether on or off the field, your child will feel what it’s like to be in both situations throughout their lifetime.

#1 Remember you can never have enough sunflower seeds, peanuts, or farmer’s tan.

Written by Heidi Woodard