I did something this weekend that today’s American culture would tell me is WRONG. Mom blogs everywhere will be lighting up, saying how awful I am to allow such heinous acts to occur in my child-rearing. Surely, I have not only ruined my child’s chance at a successful future, but how many kids did I leave behind in my wake of destruction?? Worst of all--some of them even walked away without a trophy. This weekend, I taught my kid how to win.
Brief back story to my horrific path of dashing young hopes and dreams is this:
My kid plays competitive baseball. And he’s good. And so is his team. We are THAT family (with an only child, to boot.) We have an SUV (or minivan) packed to the gills with sports equipment, tents, coolers, snacks, first aid kit, changes of clothes, umbrellas, and a partridge in a pear tree. Many weekends from August-November, and March-June, you can find us either freezing or sweltering in a field in the middle of some rural or suburban nightmare. And we love it; even when we have the fleeting moments of sanity, when we feel like this is all for the crazy-birds.
Some Interwebs “experts” will have you believe that we are what is wrong with the world. That we tie weights to our kids’ ankles and make them run sprints while wearing a parachute and a plastic suit in 100 degree temps. This may be the case for some, but not all. Not even the majority, really.
I have another deep, dark secret to indulge you with though...keep it on the down-low please, as this is probably the most damaging part of it--our kid plays one sport. One lonely sport. And he trains year-round, with throwing breaks in November/December and mid-July through mid-August. This makes us parents who allow him to “specialize” in a sport. Cue the doom & gloom music...dun, DuN, DUNNNN!!
Here is some insight to what one of our weekends looks like:
We wake up early, having packed up the night before, and get out the door, knowing to be on time is to be late
(Preparation, and respecting others’ schedules)
We get where we are going, and the kid works with his team to warm-up for the day- if our team is hosting the tournament, my husband and I are raking fields, setting up a concession stand, and distributing shirts to arriving teams
(Team and volunteer work, fundraising, and all hands on deck to put on a successful event)
Then the games begin--children hit the fields and are encouraged to score runs, keep the other team from scoring runs, and cheer each other on
(Being part of a team, supporting and motivating others, showcasing what they have trained to do)
As the tournament progresses, game times are unpredictable, as they are determined by wins and losses--there is often down time between games
(Families and team members gather together for meals-mostly pre-packed picnic style) and watch and cheer on other teams. Children do not have any sort of electronic device, and often engage in a game of wall ball, tag, or some other team-building activity. Families bond and often form friendships that will outlast our years at the ball field.)
If your team is winning, you continue to play. Eyes on the prize. May the best team win. If you are losing, you continue to play. Eyes on how you can work to improve for your next tournament.
(Constructive criticism, motivation to play well, hoping to win, or continuing to play in the face of defeat--one may argue which takes more strength.)
Along the way, your team will either be eliminated, or you will proceed. Ultimately, 2 teams will make it to the championship. You may have won all the games leading up, or you may have lost one. You may be facing a team you’ve beaten, lost to, or never played before. Only one thing is for certain: it’s not over til it’s over.
This weekend, our team battled in 5 games over 3 days. It was a holiday weekend, and families gave up pool parties and picnics to be at the field with their boys. Some had their other children with them; some were ducking out between games to shuttle a sibling here or there. There is often “changing of the guard,” where parents will switch off which event they are at in order to see all of their children participate in their sport. It was very hot, and the sun was brutal. We all worked together and pooled our resources to create areas of shade and shared coolers of water, Gatorade, and other energy-sustaining snacks with the boys and each other.
We have families of all socioeconomic levels on our team. We have families with many children, some with one child. We have single parent families, “traditional” families, and families facing separation that are trying to coexist for their children. We fundraise year-round to keep costs as low as possible, and to financially assist players who have talent, but maybe cannot afford to play. We often car pool and commute over a weekend, rather than spend the night in hotels. We are not the 1%. We are not “elite.” We are not the parents throwing blows at umpires (although we are all human and all react.) We are dedicated to, and love our children. We count pitches, and pull them from the field if they are hurt. We teach them to work through the frustration of a strike-out and discuss what went wrong. We encourage them to do better next time. We remind them that hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult action in any sport. Even MLB pros only get the bat on the ball less than three quarters of the time.
This weekend, our kids happened to win. They were not the best team there. But they worked hard and defeated the best team there. This led them to the championship game, where they won again. This time claiming their trophy. Both teams line up on the field after the game, and the hosting coach debriefs the events of the weekend. Both teams are encouraged and applauded on their outstanding work. Both teams are reminded that only one team can win. The “losing” team receives a medal and applause as they individually accept, the winning team receives the same treatment and are each handed a trophy in addition to the large trophy handed to the coach.
Our team has been the “runner-up” many times. My son has a collection of “second place” medals---in baseball, second place means you “lost.” This first place trophy is a win on so many levels. We spent a weekend together as a family; even extended family came out to support. My kid did not play a single video game, or access a single app for 3 days. He did zone out in front of the tv in the cool a/c when we got home though. Today, he will return to school and will have a story when asked “what did you do this weekend?”
He will probably say “I won my baseball tournament.” What he really did was form a sense of motivation to become a better player, teammate, and a plan to remain on the path of success. This weekend will take him far beyond a trophy on a shelf. It will play a part that forms his sense of self, and his ability to be a part of something bigger than him.