Last night, my son who is 9 years old played in the first play off game for his baseball team. My son Josh is an average player. He’s a really good hitter, but can’t catch a fly ball even if the ball was lobbed at him from one foot away and by his 92 year old great grandmother. I love my kid, but I don’t see a future for him as a baseball star. I didn’t sign him up to learn the skills of baseball. My goal and my only goal has always been to teach him the lessons of what it’s like to play on a team and follow the rules of that team. Everything else is secondary. Everything. He has been playing for three years and over time I’ve seen him go through a number of changes. Some good and some bad. However, I make sure he learns from all of them. My son has been in a number of activities…mostly karate and baseball. He’s also participated in drama and cub scouts. I’ve learned to his own detriment that he is a perfectionist. He gets angry when he doesn’t get things right the first time and sometimes acts out. He has gotten in trouble at karate and baseball. When I was his age I was a gymnast and acted the same way. I acted that way when I transitioned to marching band and acted that way when I transitioned to drum corps. No one was harder on me than me, but it doesn’t excuse poor behavior and poor Josh has inherited my perfectionist and anal retentive competitive personality. He’s going to have to learn and the road I fear, will be a difficult one. However, he will learn.
Last night, Josh struck out at bat and in a fit of anger at himself…threw the bat. That is a big no no in little league baseball and the first thing that happened was that the umpire gave him a warning. The second thing that happened is the coach lowered himself to his level so he could talk to Josh eye to eye and told him that throwing the bat is against the rules and could hurt someone. He then added this phrase, “…and it makes you look like an ass.” I heard this. A mom sitting next to me said that she couldn’t believe he said that. I told her that I think Josh deserved it. Later on after the game, the coach apologized to me profusely. He went on and on telling me that he just got angry and that is what he would have said to his child. My response, “It does make him look like an ass. Thank you.”
I signed my son up for baseball so he could learn what it is like to Not Act Like An Ass In Public! So why would I at any level not back the coach up? I don’t care if my kid is 9 or 19. If you act like an ass, then you need to be told that you are acting like an ass. I’ll be damned if my kid grows up thinking that the rules don’t apply to him and that his little temper tantrums are acceptable behavior. My child is not special and no one else’s child is either. In the car, I told him that I was proud of how he played the game, but wasn’t proud of him throwing the bat. I told him that I supported the coach. There will be no mixed messages in my household. I then told my husband. He being dad and an e-Army sniper made sure Josh knew that wasn’t o.k. behavior in his own “ex-Army sniper” sort of way. (No he didn’t shoot the child)
So I write this today for all parents signing their children up for the up coming marching band season, but this could go for the parents signing their children up for football, soccer, volleyball, dance, or theater.
The first question you as a parent should ask is this. “Why is my kid doing this activity and what do I hope they learn?” We as coaches and staff members should ask the same thing. “What lessons do I hope to teach this year?”
If the first answer is, “I hope we win or I hope they learn how to play music or I hope we design the best show ever,” then the answer is wrong. The answer should go something like this.
“My hope for this marching band season is for my child to learn discipline and with discipline comes rules and consequences. I hope my child learns that sometimes consequences come from others on the team…as well as the coaches. I hope my child learns that although he is an independent and strong individual, that adults still set the guidelines and he needs to follow them. Period. I hope my child learns what it is like to work as a team and with being a team comes winning and losing as a team. My child is not special on this team. I hope my child learns to understand that in life comes disappointment and he may be on the receiving end of unwarranted and unfair disappointment, because welcome to the real world. I hope my child is not coddled, because life doesn’t coddle you. In fact…life is damn hard. Life will eat you up and spit you out without warning. Life demands that you have a thick skin and that skin is grown in the hot sun under the watchful eyes of a good coach telling you that it isn’t good enough and you need to do it again. I hope that at some point this season my child learns the lessons of karma. If you put good toward the team, then good will come back to you. If you put bad toward the team, then bad will come back to you. I hope my child learns that when you practice hard you reap the benefits and when you slack off, complain about the heat, the rain, the sun, the long hours, and the physical pain…then you go to the back of the line of those teams that don’t complain about the heat, the rain, the sun, and the long hours. I wish for my child to learn to manage time, because early is on time and on time is late…and if you’re late…you’re dead. I want the staff to come down hard on my child sometimes, because he will learn what it’s like to be a good employee and to basically…shut up and do what you’re told. I want my child to know that in life his opinion is not always asked for or desired. In fact, I can’t think of the last project I had at work, where my boss gave me a choice on whether I wanted to complete it or not. I hope through working as a team and under coaches; he learns how to have a valid opinion, but learns when it is appropriate to share that opinion. I don’t want him to be a opinion-less drone incapable of forming an opinion, but I also don’t want him to be so arrogant that he doesn’t know when to just shut up and just listen. I hope my child learns to think abstractly and creatively, because he has to find new ways to work through problems and hard situations. I hope that my child cries because it is too hard and celebrates when he sees the fruits of his and the teams labor. I want my child to know that he is valued, but at the same time not valued over anyone else on the team. Finally, I want my child to have fun, because fun is so much more important than winning, but winning is a blast and if you work hard…you might just win. I want my child to make new friends from different backgrounds and learn that diversity is a good thing. I want him to learn to stand up for those weaker than him through the inner strength he gains by a strong and personal work ethic; taught to him through marching band. I want my child to take the lessons of the team and carry them into school, college, marriage, parenting, and the work force. I want my child to shine, but at the lessons of what it’s like to be a team…not because his is a star. My hope as a parent is that I can back up the coaches, directors, and instructors in any way possible to help my child learn these lessons of life.”
This is my hope for my child as a parent and as a guard instructor my hope for those I coach.