What a great game!
Today, my son learned how good it feels to work hard and stay focused.
For the past several years (yes, it’s really been going on for years!) he has been trudging through baseball seasons, moaning & complaining about nearly every practice and game. He would say something like, “It looks like it’s going to rain, Mom. Are you sure we should go?” when there were maybe two clouds in the sky.
It seemed to me like he could actually play the game if he just put a little bit of effort into it. And I kept wondering whether that effort would ever present itself. Then I started wondering…was my lil’ guy a slacker? Was he spoiled? Or was he just plain bored?
I lectured him way too much year after year about the importance of practice and hard work. None of my words ever seemed to sink in. Until today.
On the way to the game, I stated unequivocally that he is going to play baseball again this spring and he has some choices. He can whine, complain, and agonize for the next few months and make the season feel like it’s half a lifetime or he can find some way of coping with whatever bugs him about the game. “Let’s say, for example,” I said, “you hate being in the outfield. Well, if that’s because it’s really boring in the outfield, then think about something while you’re out there. Think about your favorite song and sing it in your head. Practice your times tables in your head while you wait for the batter to hit the ball. Say the alphabet backwards. Think about what you want for dinner Saturday night. Just make the best of it.”
I was on a roll, so I added, “You might try feeling a little empathy for your coaches, too. They’re people, too, you know. So when you guys are out in the outfield making jokes, giggling and playing with the grass, the coaches probably feel disrespected. When you’re not paying any attention to the game or when you’re not trying your best or not learning what they’re trying to teach you, they’re probably wondering why the heck they’re doing what they’re doing.”
“It’s all about the right time and the right place. You can make jokes and mess around during recess or after the game or at a playdate – not at baseball practice and certainly not at a game. Practice is the time to learn and improve your skills and the game is the time to put those things to the test — for yourself. If you don’t improve your skills, then you’re not trying. And if you’re not trying, how can you honestly know whether you like this sport?”
He looked a little stunned.
Then, for the first time, we both really enjoyed the game.
Night after night, year after year, I used to sit in the bleachers, tense and in full control-freak mode, motioning to him to pay attention so he didn’t get walloped in the back of the head by a speeding baseball. Or I would shout silly commands like, “Look alive out there!” which, when he first heard it, seemed a bit odd. “Of course, I look alive, Mom! How could I look dead when I’m standing up making jokes with Bobby?” he would respond.
This night was different. This night I actually had a great time — and so did he!! Tonight I cheered for him when he got on base (three times!) and when he crossed home plate (three times!). I told him I noticed how hard he tried when he had to play catcher (his least favorite position), when he played second base and even when he played right field. Tonight, he walked away from that field beaming and skipping and declared, “Mom, I think baseball is my favorite sport now!”
You know, maybe they really do listen to what we say…