Sunday, February 8, 2009

Adventures in Real Parenting: Not An Epic FAIL


To my son,

Dude, I am so sorry that the baseball coaches didn't see your talent or drive. I know you are a great player who has his head in the game, who sees the next play, who puts everything into the moment, the play, the swing, the throw, catch and slide.

I honestly don't know what they're looking for, but since it's not you, I say fuck them. Or thank you. You know, because it's a mixed blessing kind of thing. You'll still play recreational ball and we won't be saddled with double the insane sport schedule we'd have if you did make the team.

A couple of years ago, your father and I decided not to let you be on one of those traveling teams. Our reasons were both practical and philosophical. Let's face it, we don't have the time, money or energy to do it. We also believe that kids who don't take a break from a sport run the risk of mental and physical burn out. I understand that most of the guys who did make the team are deeply entrenched in the traveling programs, so maybe that was a set back for you. Nevertheless, Dad and I stand by our decision.

We would have cheered you had you made the team, but know that we are equally proud of you for having gone to the tryouts each night, sticking with it through the freezing temperatures, the hard-whipped balls that left imprints of seams on your calves and the growing sense that it was an utter waste of time since the team roster was essentially already set. You wanted to quit. Each night, you'd say you were done and each morning you'd gather your gear and ask someone to pick you up late from school.

And all of that for what?

The satisfaction of knowing that you can start something and finish it. You can try and not make it and still have a sense of self-worth. You're still a good player. Maybe not good enough for that team, but you're a good player, typically one of the best on your rec team.

Sounds like a pile of parent-speak crap doesn't it? Some day you'll understand. You'll have your own monster-clones who will go through the bumps and bruises and mental torture that is childhood and you'll look back at this time of your life and remain convinced that the coach passed over some really great seventh graders so he could put some sixth grade friends of his girlfriend's son on the team. You'll think "my parents were full of shit" right before you do exactly what we've done and our parents did before us, etc.....

Whatever. Life is like that. You may never like it, but you'll become just as noisily resigned to it as the rest of us. You'll bitch about it until everyone's eyes glaze over and they turn the television up a little louder and then you'll move on.

In the meantime, don't let it get you down. The important thing is that you'll continue to play the game you love. And that's what really matters. That and the fact that cool girls totally dig guys in polyester baseball pants......

Love,

Mom


Torture, I know.

33 comments:

  1. Being a kid is tough and it's hard to see past disappointments. But at least he knows he's loved. Beautiful post, Lisa.

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  2. Aww, poor kid. But you're right, Lisa. A lot of the sports stuff is so political, especially in the South. It's beyond ridiculous.

    My brother was an awesome pitcher. The coach chose the kids that had been on his traveling team over him because my brother had the talent but not the connections. My mom literally went to coach and asked him, "How much?" Coach looked at her funny and she said, "Well, that kid over there got on the team despite being hopeless because his parents gave you Ranger box seats. So, how much?"

    Meritocracy my ass.

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  3. It's tough, I know. I was turned down for roller derby back in the dayand thought it so unfair. Like you, I know my parents were cheering to themselves. I hope he is okay with it eventually. I love the pictures.

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  4. I love this post so much. The decisions everyone makes make sense to them--all good. But mostly I love the photos of you and the Actor. These are so lovely. Whoever the photographer really knows when to chick that picture.

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  5. YES, YES, YES!! It is way more political than we'd all like to admit. We also are not gunning for the "A" team, and like to keep our family on a sane schedule. Our twin #2 had easily made the top soccer team until last summer, when she was cut to the lower squad. It was the best summer of soccer ever. And she came back better than ever and passed all her team mates by making the JV squad as a freshman.

    One of my favorite quotes: "We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope" MLK Jr.

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  6. It is tough when the coaches do not see what you see in your child, I would imagine. But disappointment is part of life and will make him/them stronger people. He will continue to work hard and maybe next year he will make the team or maybe in High School where the coaches may be more motivated by talent and not by if you are their girlfriend's son's friend.

    This is another wonderful post by you.

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  7. Another great post about your life as a parent. Love is not easy; it's oh so damn complicated.

    I hope he still sees the love of the game and let's that drive him to wherever it may.

    (I also see this as another great story of how it's not a perfect world. Giving all you can to the kids you love also has limits - time, sacrifice, emotional investment, time; it's a lot!

    And coaches make choices without respect to talent. I recall a story of a coach who picked three girls who just were not good enough but were so lost and needed a sense of belonging, the coach put them on the team. They so needed it; that team was then their only family. Few adults will say that was a bad choice, still three other girls with greater talent did not make the team. I'm not saying it's the case here but sharing that the selection can mean so much more than the sport.)

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  8. Oh, I forgot to mention...I love the pix of you and the actor!

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  9. What a beautiful tribute to you and the actor...something to cherish forever.

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  10. I think that sometimes coaches think that they are one step away from managing in the major leagues. So they make choices that are best for them not necessarily for the kids. I may sound like "one of those parents" but I have been coaching him since he was 4 years old -learning along with him at times.

    I know what I know and it is this: Our teams always play better when Nate is in the field. It is a fact. I watched him played injured in last year's tournaments and still make the double play with a 6 footer bearing down on 4 ft 10 body. Even when he did not hit - he gets on base. I also know that it is tough to get a break at anything and there will be no break if you don't try and he did.

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  11. this is such a sweet post about you both and how much you love your kids, in this case, your son...and in the end, that's what they remember...not some loser coach they had one year...next year, he'll be on the team, if that's what he wants...

    I loved the pictures!

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  12. Yes, those polyester baseball pants are a real babe magnet.

    Love the pic of you smooching your boy. Too cute!

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  13. Sweet photos. And sweet sentiment. He'll realize years from now that he was better off not making that team because mos all of the guys on it are douchebags, the coaches too.

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  14. Wonderful letter to your son. But if I may ask one thing, tell him this: Many of those kids who are entrenched in sports, who give up their lives for "the game" are playing a crap shoot with the worst odds. Few of them, if any, will make it to the major leagues much less play college ball. Meanwhile, you are fortunate to be the son of two parents that care deeply about making you a better person, and not just a better athlete. And, anyway, I think you understand more than anyone that baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

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  15. No holds barred very fine post. I agree with Utah about remembering the photographer.

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  16. Wow. You were so mature about all this. I think I would have given into the temptation to asperge the coaches with an assortment of ethnic cusses on the theme of how they are the [genetalia reference] which they clearly lack in adequate measure. I wish that coaches would leave polticking out of it, especially when such great kids are affected by their maneuvering.

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  17. Michael Jordan did not make his varsity team until his junior year.

    They're making cuts in (little/youth) league baseball in FEBRUARY?

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  18. what everyone else said too and those pictures are the greatest!

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  19. Holy crap- you have outdone yourself with this post, amazing and more amazing.

    And those photos - oh those photos!

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  20. Beautiful truth...in words and pictures....

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  21. Another great post. It's always hard seeing your kids get rejected, but I can totally understand the underlying sense of relief, too. We went through it with cheerleading -- really wanted the kid to make the squad because she wanted it, and felt like a huge (financial) burden had been lifted when she didn't. It's an interesting mix of empathy and guilt.

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  22. That was really sweet.

    I look around at what passes for kids' sports today, and compare it to what I remember of little league when I was a kid, and I'm horrified. It's sad that you hardly ever see kids playing pickup ball games just for fun any more--they're all too scheduled and only have time to play in "organized" leagues. Damn.

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  23. Lisa I love this post!! You know I'm a mom of athletes and I have been in exactly this place before, and it was no fun, but it made me and my children stronger and better. I have known for a long time what a great mom you are, but this post really brought it home for me. Thanks for sharing your sons ups and downs with us.
    BTW, he is quite the handsome young man!

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  24. My oldest daughter played softball for 11 years, We went through the traveling team routine for 4 summers. By high school she was sick of softball and after two seasons she switched sports completely to rowing! She loved the challenge and it got her into PENN.

    There is burn out, there are unknowable coaching decisions and most of all there are opportunities for kids to learn about themselves and others. They grow from the experiences and so do their parents!

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  25. I hate to say this, but politcs is involved in picking kids for teams.

    Travel ball players get all the spots first..I know this from personal experience with my niece who was into softball all through jr high and high school. Once we put her on a travel ball team, she was always chosen for the school teams...and really, you have to, as a parent, kiss a little ass and that sucks too.

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  26. Lisa, Please tell the Actor, I am so sorry. My cousin's son went through this, too. Last year he tried out for the sophmore baskball team (after playing since he was in 4th grade) and didn't make it. He was never the kid who got the baskets, but could look, set up a play, and get it to the kid who would get it in. They had a new coach who only wanted shooters. Even the principle was surprised he didn't make it. And my younger nephew was on a traveling team for little league. It was a lot of running around and the kids had to go home and do homework afterwards.

    MaryCatholic

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  27. Very very sweet, Lisa Mom. I really do think what happened is for the best, both economically and for his sanity.

    Believe it or not, I played sports in high school myself. I was hideously bad at baseball but very good in football. Unfortunately, I was nothing like most of my largely brain-dead teammates and the profound sense of isolation I felt is what prompted me eventually to give it up. I have never regretted that decision.

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  28. That is one gem of a pic. And a seriously smart letter, too. Especially the part about chicks digging the polyester pants :)

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  29. This is so sweet!

    I hope your boy grows up to be whatever he wants to be and makes plenty of money so he can come back to the home town and drop some coins into the tin cup of the grizzled, unemployed former coach.

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  30. Take it from me: Those kids who grew up playing sports seriously enough to be on travel teams throughout middle and high schools turn out to be massive pricks, and usually get addicted to "banned substances" because they burn out their rotator cuffs by the time their old enough to drive.

    And besides, chicks dig guys with cars. Instead of traveling around with a bunch of soon-to-be dicks, get a little after school job and start saving for a car or even better a motorcycle!

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  31. I don't know how I missed this one! But OMFG, I wish my dad would have written the same thing to me when I was that age (he was the ex-college FB player who spawned a klutzy daughter but always hoped for an athlete).

    Anyway, BEAUTIFUL POST. Seriously, it made me cry, because oh, how those years just suck, those shitty teenage years.

    And also, my ex-BF is a pitcher with a MLB team, and he is as boring as the day is long. And he's a Republican. So there.

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  32. Really? I'm gonna have to get me some polyester baseball pants!

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