Left of Center – Parents in Fastpitch
When we first started our travel softball team, we gathered the greatest kids and parents conceivable. The good news is that they are still together, and here we are in 16U!
The funny thing, is that one softball mama in particular, never seemed very interested in huddling around home plate, participating in the dug out cheers, never approached the coach or I except for within the confines of a text message, and instead chose to sit left of center, literally at the outfield fence, to watch the festivities of the day. No matter how much we tried to encourage her to join in with the others, to sit closer, she kept her distance. Not rudely, but protectively. Eventually, she started moving closer and closer and one day -she opened herself up to a conversation.
I asked her why she sat so far away. And her answer, at that time, was one I couldn’t understand. She explained how she had already went through the travel and school ball experiences with her older children. During those years, she was always in the loop, always included herself in the team activities. And during her experiences, she started realizing the far too common thread of discord. This time around she said, “I want to simply enjoy it without being caught up in the drama or worrying whether or not the coaches or other parents liked me.”
She told me that when her youngest daughter entered the same world, she had not grown bitter, but rather tired of hearing complaints, and rants, and dealing with the other parents and decided to put herself and her own needs, to enjoy the time at the ball-park, first and foremost. Simply put, she felt that some of the mama drama, took so much away from watching her daughter play, that it just wasn’t worth it.
I had a hard time understanding, being both new to travel and school ball. How could you not want the best vantage point to watch the game? Why would you want to be separate from the group? What was the problem? Did she think we were awful people? Was she snooty or snobby? (She IS none of those things). In fact, all she was being was cautious.
As the years have gone by I have begun to understand, and now I find that in certain fastpitch venues, I too sit ‘left of center’ so to speak. While I love my girls coaches, I don’t particularly want to talk to them in front of others with wide ears and gossipy hens waiting in the wings to hear what is being said. And I am happy carrying on a conversations via text message. For one thing, they are inundated with fair weather friends who will turn on them the moment they do something they think is NOT in their child’s favor. Plus, I imagine that the coaches have plenty to do rather than deal with idle (and often pretentious) chit-chat from parents. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon for them to realize what certain people are after. And after all, these coaches are focused on the team of girls, as it should be – NOT the parents. Let’s be reminded that the game is about the girls. Not mom and dad. So I try to stay out of their way, hoping they know that I will help how, and when I can if ever needed without being intrusive. Certainly, one less person brown-nosing is a good thing, right.
Removing myself from the things that I feel ruin the experience, fizzle the passion, or that have a tendency to upset me – is the BEST way to stay positive. And that is what my girls, and the other girls really need.
Over the years, I too – have had games or tournaments ruined by sitting next to wolf packs of parents on the hunt for a scapegoat. When all I want to do is watch the game played, sitting next to parents that have a hard time staying focused on the reality that these are KIDS playing a game they love, ruins the experience for me. It’s not a separation from people that I seek, but a separation from negativity that I need.
So I am now just a watcher. If I see that the waters are safe and calm, I am inclined to move my chair and sit closer. On the other hand, if a situation is volatile, I keep to myself and focus on what is important.
So if you see me at the ball field, or perhaps see another parent at the ball field sitting left of center – rather than think they are being standoffish, or snobby, or snooty – consider that they are just giving themselves the best vantage point to watch the game the way they want to watch the game. Just like I tell my kids, sometimes, it’s better to be alone than surrounded by idiots, or people who seek to bring you down.