My nine year old son is a baseball freak. By that I mean despite the fact that he plays many sports and all with passion, when it comes to baseball he’s in another orbit. He has to really love it to practice the amount he does to try to be the best player, pitcher, first baseman and hitter that he can be.
Baseball does take up at least three times more space in our lives than soccer and lacrosse as the season is longer — we are now into All Stars, the games are longer and more frequent and the practices are more frequent and longer. It’s endless hours for all of us and sometimes I question whether it’s worth it.
Reading Mike Matheny’s book, former professional baseball catcher and the current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, The Matheny Manifesto, reassured me that there is much more to baseball than even what I am experiencing on a daily basis. It’s a great read and Mike highlights the need for baseball to be supported and not controlled by parents. It’s a fine line and I’m learning to walk that line.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
It’s the player’s choice. I love watching my kids compete, but of all their sports, lacrosse my favorite to watch. Both my boys play lacrosse and I relish taking in all the action of those 60 minute games, but when lacrosse and baseball games are scheduled for the same hour, my son chooses baseball every time.
The player is capable. I realize that my own anxiety is triggered when my son pitches more than his is. He is actually comfortable on the mound because he knows what he’s doing. Just because I’m more nervous when he’s pitching than when I watch live TV only means that I’m comfortable at what I know, and I have to give him the same credit.
Perspective taking starts with parents. I get anxious because I want all those practice hours to show on the field and I have to be aware of the stress I am creating. Although all I want is for him to happy and successful, I can’t control the outcome and getting stressed helps no one. One game is just that and baseball is a sport of many, many games.
Baseball odds mirror life. It’s expected for most players to strike out seven of ten times at bat or even more than that. I’m not sure what the odds are in life for reaching goals but certainly lots there will be many strike outs along the way to reaching any goal that’s worth achieving.
Baseball teaches players the teamwork. Individual statistics are part of baseball, but no player can win the game without the whole team working together. Individual players have to be committed to improving their game, otherwise the whole team suffers.
Baseball is a game of mental control. No baseball player ever loses or wins a game and knowing how to move beyond a good and bad play is essential. If a player can stay level-headed on the field they can learn to transfer that evenness to manage life stress.
Players benefit from parents who model control. Parents can easily become overzealous during baseball games or even practices. How many parents recognize that their comments and screeches do nothing for their kids’ performance?
The importance of keeping competition in check. When parents get too involved in score keeping it’s time to take stock. They should ask what’s so important about the final score- It’s how the game is played, isn’t it and isn’t that what great players learn as kids?
Poor sportsmanship looks really bad. Baseball has maintained a strong honor and therefore when a player kicks his equipment after being called out it’s an embarrassment for the entire team and community. No one wants to watch a player being a poor sport.
Baseball requires and teaches commitment. It’s so hard to be good at baseball. My son is good at all his sports, and yet baseball, the sport he loves the most, is the one he struggles with the most. It’s the challenge of the game that draws him in and that’s fine with me because he’s learning to work hard for what he loves.
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Dr. Kate Roberts
Child and school psychologist; couples counselor; relationship expert