Spend enough Saturdays at the ballpark, and you are sure to experience the raw gamut of emotions that come from watching your children play ball. Between the parents on the sidelines, the coaches, the officials, the girls in the dugouts, spectators and moms chasing their sticky toddlers around, the ball-field offers a full-sized smorgasbord of human feelings. From elation and glee filled with giddy laughter and tears, to disgust and frustration. From the highest highs imaginable, to something that feels like the lowest of lows.
You see people at their very best – and people at their VERY WORST!
At SIFG, we truly try to capitalize on the good stuff as much as possible. The cheering, the hundreds of small wins that range from a girl breaking through a hitting slump, to a pitcher getting her first few strikeouts, to a coach seeing the small steps of growth add up to something substantial.
And yet, we would be lying, and somewhat superficial if we were to say anyone who felt anything but the good things was an evil-spirited person who didn’t remember that this was a kids game, played by kids – and that they were nothing but fun-sucking selfish adults. It’s easy to sit back in judgment and talk about the ‘should bes.’ Harder when you are sitting there at the park watching your team fall apart, or taking bad calls personally, or irritated with coaching etc.
Admission time. Last weekend, we watched our 14U team get hammered by 9 runs in the first inning of a game because we seemingly forgot how to catch outfield pop flies. Even worse, each and every ball hit the glove of a player. One by one, the balls fell to the grass. And, then in perfect harmony, the infield followed suit making goofy throws and letting balls go between their legs. It didn’t help that this happened during a game with a team that we had a perceived ‘rivalry’ with.
As parents, we held our hands over our faces. Some got up and walked away. Others started bleacher coaching with furrowed brows. What was happening? And then, I felt it. The frustration had led to anger. The anger was swelling up inside my throat. In that first awful inning, it was easy to forget all the good the team had done in the previous 5 games. Easy to forget that the outfield had been stellar all day long. Absolutely, I pondered filling my styrofoam cup with copious amounts of alcohol. Felt embarrassed, could I scratch the name off of my t-shirt so I could make it to the bathroom unscathed?
Everything I thought about saying to the girls was laced with anger as I sat there shaking my head in disbelief that we fell apart so fast.
Then it hit me. This was one inning. Or one game. Sure, the team was capable of better. But perhaps them most important thing was that I had nothing to be angry about. I was simply a spectator. I didn’t make the errors. This team is the one who succeeds or fails together. It wasn’t the coaches fault. Sure, I thought he should start moving some players – but what would that teach anyone? Did it frustrate me that he left those girls out there to try to rummage three outs in what seemed like an impossible and never-ending first inning? Yes! But the truth is, that was the best thing TO DO! And eventually, they did it.
The girls had to find the want within themselves. This was their lesson as ball players to learn! This was THEIR GAME, not mine. Why was I so mad?
Hear this closely….their performance had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME or MY SELF WORTH, OR SUCCESS.
Why are we so attached to our children’s performance on the softball field?Isn’t that selfish and egotistical. Aren’t our children individuals?
The kids had to figure out a way to come back, work through this together, and on their own. No one on the sidelines could do it for them, and anger from those around them certainly wasn’t going to help.
Bottom line, these girls know what to do, what they should be doing – how things are supposed to go. If anyone had a right to be angry, it was the girls on the field. Angry with themselves, angry with what happened. The pitcher should have been angry that her team didn’t play behind her.
When they finally got off the field, the coach didn’t say a word. It was just time to hit, time to start over. Disgruntled parents started walking up to the dugout, all irritated and angry. I was still angry and chose not to make eye contact with my daughter. It was not my right to be angry.
Why would I take on anger that didn’t belong to me? Sure, we are invested as parents, but at some point – we have to allow the girls to OWN THE GAME!
And not once, have I ever seen a parents anger help a team. Plus, what example does that set?
Finally, I came to the conclusion that I would just sit back and watch it pan out. This was their lesson, their growing experience as a team to endure, THEIR experience not mine. My anger had no place, so I shushed it away. (Certainly I have to admit, this was easier to do since the girls found a way to put the first inning behind them and regained their ability to play ball)
At the end of the day, we don’t want our kids to remember that we were angry. We are there to watch them play, win or lose – succeed or fail. We can’t put conditions on, or attach strings to our role as parents of softball players. (If we do, WE LOSE OUT) Sure, some days are better than others – but part of the game is taking it all in strides. And the kids gain a lot more when we allow THEM to take ownership of their personal performance, their team, and their losses and WINS!