On Kids and Sports

That's me in that picture above. No, not the one kicking the ball, I'm the one making that face and recoiling in terror. Even better? That picture wound up in the newspaper. I used to hate that picture growing up, but my Mom loved it and proudly displayed it at home. Now, I have it in my own house, and I laugh at it every time it catches my eye. And now that my own kids are venturing into sports it makes me think. Finn started t-ball this spring, and I find myself conflicted about it. On the one hand, I want him to have fun and enjoy himself, which he does. At his first practice he yelled out to me from the field "Hey Mom! I love t-ball! This is awesome!", so I'm fairly sure the enthusiasm is there. On the other hand, I want him to try to take it somewhat seriously. On the third hand (ed. note: I realize there are only two hands just bear with me here) I realize that HE IS FIVE. Five might be too young to start to take it seriously. I get that. But I WANT him to. I want him to try to learn the rules and try his hardest, all while still having fun. I find myself standing behind home plate yelling at him "Drop the bat and RUN FINN!!!" and I can't believe it is coming from my mouth. But it's like I can't help myself. All of my laid back, easygoing-ness goes right out the window and I literally have to remind myself every few minutes, "He's in kindergarten, get a grip".

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not going to wind up one of those parents who gets in a fist fight over a little league game. And I don't want to create any anxiety or pressure for him. I just want to strike a balance between having fun and taking it seriously, one that will take him right through t-ball into whichever sport he winds up choosing in high school, is that too much to ask?

I was in little league when I was around Finn's age, we didn't have t-ball when I was growing up, and I was one of only two girls in our league. Everyone was content to just let me sit in the outfield and make clover crowns for everyone, and once in a while I would actually hit the ball when I was up at bat. I didn't turn out to be a star softball player, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying sitting out there in the grass in the sun. Whether or not my fellow teammates enjoyed me being part of their team is another story altogether, but the point is I had fun, and my parents let me have fun. The soccer picture is another example of how my parents handled me playing sports. I was so embarrassed by it and felt so ashamed, but my Mom insisted that it happens to everyone at some point, and she offered to give me a few pointers to improve my game. She wound up coaching my teams for a few years and usually was pretty great at striking a balance between having fun and taking it seriously. The picture though still serves to remind me to not take it, or myself, too seriously.

However, growing up with two older brothers instilled a competitive streak in me that I do need to suppress from time to time (perhaps during heated ping pong tournaments with Sean...), and I also don't want to suck the fun out of stuff because of it. I think this experience will be a learning one for both Finn and myself. Hopefully I can learn to reign it in just a bit and he can learn how to focus just a little bit while still having a great time. We shall see. For now though, I'm trying to quell any urges of mine to over-think the whole t-ball thing and just let him have fun with his friends. I know there will be plenty of time for taking it more seriously as he grows up, and that will happen before I even know it. But in the meantime, if you see me at Gavin Park pacing behind the batters box giving little pointers, please don't judge me, I swear I'm working on it.