Early Innings…Holding out Hope
You are a lifelong baseball fan. Maybe you played softball or baseball at some serious level. Perhaps you have always just enjoyed watching the game and following your favorite team. In any case, let’s just say that baseball was and is important to you in some way.
Now let’s take a step back in time. Back about 10 to 12 years or so. You remember looking down at your newborn son in the maternity ward and thinking what a great smile he had for a baseball card. And those hands were made to swing for the fences. Or maybe it was your daughter stretching her arms out that made you think you could have the next Jennie Finch right there in front of you. You have a quick vision of free tuition and a spot on the Olympic Softball team. Having a child that becomes a good athlete can ease the way through college if nothing else and one can always dream bigger things, right?
Move ahead a little in time and you see your child growing up as you went through the excruciating afternoons of t-ball with all the other neighborhood parents. You all watched as the kids moved up to have coaches and then other players pitch to them. In many cases, the children show measurable improvement in their ability to play the game. Although never vocalized there was perhaps an underlying sense of competition between parents regarding whose child was better at this game. And you were subtly drawn into it.
Fast forward to the present. Despite sitting your child in front of the TV since they were 3 years old to watch every game with you as you painstakingly explained every nuance of the game situation there is a disconnect. Little Johnny doesn’t understand the concept of waiting for a good pitch to hit. He continues to swing at pitches that bounce five feet in front of the plate and has a consecutive strikeout streak going that must be approaching world record proportions. After countless hours playing catch in your yard, Suzy still can’t catch a simple ground ball, letting them all go through her legs as she looks both pained and amused. And then she turns and SKIPS after the ball to retrieve it! You just want to scream.
Though its very hard to do you have to admit it. Go ahead. Say it. My Kid Sucks At Baseball. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it. Let me say it for you. Yes, the cold hard truth. Your kid sucks at baseball. Now how do you deal with it?
If you were simply dealing with this from the perspective of a coach or manager who had a player that was not living up to expectations you could make a swift and decisive move. If there was a team in your league that had not noticed how really bad your player was you could attempt to trade with them. You always could just cut the player from the team and send them on their way and never give it another thought.
Late in the Game…Anything To Turn It Around
Unfortunately, in this case, the so-called player was born into your family. That narrows down your options considerably. Cutting them from the team, while it may be financially advantageous, will probably cause issues with your spouse. Even if they side with you and agree on the move there are still all the other relatives to consider, so that avenue is closed to you. A trade is probably out of the question as well. Suzy is very good at math and science but the Williams family three doors down don’t think that is a good enough package to switch for their daughter who is currently the star pitcher for the middle school team. No one will be duped as to your child’s ability so no trade is going to happen in this neighborhood.
Maybe the problem is that your child does not pay enough attention to the game and gets distracted. This is a common characteristic of children and one that can be hard to defeat. You could try to overcome this deficiency with some stuff. Kids love stuff. Nice, new and maybe even colorful stuff. A brand new, top of the line composite bat might be just what Johnny needs to pay more attention and actually try to hit the ball. So what if it costs more than your monthly car payment, this is important! Get Suzy a new glove and then get out there and throw her a hundred ground balls. Hey, she caught seventeen of them. We have improvement!
You can try to give your child more of your own time to help them work on their game. This implies that they want to work on their game and that there is potential for improvement in their game. If neither of these is true then this could just be a waste time for the both of you.
At this point, it is advisable to remove yourself from the intra-team, competitive parental banter that you have engaged in since your child got into organized sports. Next time Harry from down the road shakes his head after Suzy makes an error and starts telling you how his daughter would make that play every time just listen. And then instead of making excuses for Suzy’s performance remind Harry that your daughter was taking advanced placement math in preparation for her career as a nuclear physicist. Then walk away and get a soda.
Probably the best way to deal with the fact that your kid sucks in baseball for both you and your child is to accept it and move on. I bet if you think about it there are some things in life that you suck at too. And that has not prevented you from getting where you are in life with a fine, healthy child who can play sports and have fun with their peers. Celebrate that fact with them and let them play for fun if that’s all they want from it. As a parent, you can’t do any better than backing your child in what they want out of life.
David is the editor/co-founder of The Planet Of Baseball. He’s a software engineer by day and a baseball blogger by night.