Baseball Zeitgeist: What Baseball Teaches Kids and Their Parents
What Baseball Teaches Kids and Their Parents
I have kind of waxed poetic about the value playing baseball can have for kids in other posts, but this is not another paean to the sport.
The background is, my son's team lost 7 out of 8 games and played poorly in two tournaments -- way too poorly for their abilities. Basically they quickly become unfocused when things go wrong. They lost two fairly close games to a highly ranked, disciplined Massachusetts team that went to the Nationals; two to a very strong team that played better, more disciplined baseball; and two more close games to another disciplined team. They were in all of these games early on, and still have good pitching. Their hitting is inconsistent and their fielding is erratic, and their concentration is nonexistent at critical points in the game.
Last weekend, they lost four games and got spanked in two of them in a tournament after dropping a one-run decision in a time-limit game on day one in which they got ahead, fell behind, came back, and then saw the game called after 6 due to the 2-hour limit. After that game, things went downhill fast.
Okay, not being very subtle here. The team is undisciplined and, at times, not mature. They lose confidence quickly after a couple of errors and often take those errors, as a team and personally, to the plate and cannot seem to recover, no matter how their pitchers try to keep focused. Their coaches seem unaware that they can -- must -- help them re-focus, must remind them of situations, and keep them attentive and confident.
Weeks of this kind of playing -- one mistake or two (usually, two becomes three or four) and the team loses its focus -- has pretty much pissed off most (actually just about all) of the parents. They see this lack of direction, lack of focus, lack of discipline, and lack of timely instruction and positive encouragement, and blame the coaches. It all kind of blew up when they were in a close tournament game, made errors, and then were not in the game anymore. There were lots of previously unexpressed feelings and opinions that volcanoed after that game and, while I was not there, I'll simply say there were strong words spoken and strong words returned between parents and coaches.
We are heading into the last few weeks of the season. We have games and tournaments and will be there for all of them; how they play and how they are managed/coached, and how the parents react remain unknowns and unpredictable.
So what is the lesson here for kids and for parents? Who's wrong here? More to the point: What went wrong here? No communications -- same as always. Coaches talked, I guess, to one another and parents talked (I know) to one another, but neither talked to each other until the boiling point for the parents. Both the coaches and parents are decent, caring people, which makes this a bit harder to talk about.
The intensity of competition is great -- there is nothing like the emotion of winning, or even losing, to make you feel alive, in my opinion. In fact, I know I spend more time on a high from a good game than on a low from a bad game. But there is still the issue of playing the game right -- right attitude, focused mindset, situational awareness, confidence all go into making that happen. It seems we as parents and our kids have a ways to go on this, but also that we all -- parents and coaches -- need to remember that these kids are 15 and need direction and instruction about how to play it right, no matter what the circumstances. It is not enough to expect them to know -- you have to confirm that they know -- what to do, how to approach the game and its endless series of situations, and for that, coaches are responsible, in my opinion. Baseball is a stream of new situations based on every pitch; there is no time when you cannot pay attention, cannot concentrate, do not know what to do next. The "decision tree" for each player must jibe with those of all the other players. This is a hard, complex game that takes mental not just physical tools. Just like everything in life.
Postscript: We have decided to sponsor and run our own team for next season. I guess that means we are going to be our own managers, coaches -- and critics. We'll see how that works out. I expect we will learn a lot more about ourselves then.