Monday, June 20, 2011

Baseball Overload

My son Noa is 7 and has been playing baseball now for 2 years. He started in t-ball as most red blooded American kids do (James & both did).  He then moved up to "machine pitch" last fall.  He likes to play and so we sign him up every spring and fall session that our local Optimist Club offers. 

I'm glad he likes it because frankly he needs a sport to get him outside and off the Wii.  And I used to play softball (and according to my mom and most of my memories I was pretty good at it too) all through elementary and middle school.  I wanted to play in high school but my awful middle school coach moved up to high school too and I just couldn't take playing with him and his daughter anymore (long story short).  OK back to Noa ... so I am glad he likes it because baseball is one of the few sports I like to watch and know how to play.   But I have a feeling Noa may not be cut out for baseball.  But I will encourage him to play as long as he wants even after this last spring season.

So by happenstance we ended up with a really wonderful coach for Noa's first t-ball team.  We loved him so much we asked to be on his team for the next two sessions.  They were great sessions and Noa learned a lot.  But as we finished the fall session in machine pitch with his old coach he informed us that he would not be coaching in the spring because of school commitments.  We were sad but understood.  So spring sign up came around and we signed Noa up and let his placement fall to chance.  Well it was quite a different team and coach as got assigned to.  We stumbled into a winning team that took this machine pitch league very seriously.  They had won the fall ball machine pitch division and wanted to do it again in the spring.  Now everyone was nice enough but these guys were serious.  And unfortunately for Noa he was one of the worse players.  I love the boy but I am well aware that he's goofy and a bit uncoordinated but we are talking little league ... we are all here to learn right?  Ummm no, not according to our new team.  Noa was quickly placed in the outfield (which I have no problem with at all) but at ages 6,7, & 8 I still expect them to learn some other positions.  I didn't expect him to play other positions during a game but in practices yes. So we started out having 1 1/2 hour practices once a week with a game during the week and one on the weekend.  Not too bad.  We could handle that.  We won our first few games and then we lost one.  It was not a pretty sight.  Practices then became 2 hours and when he could fit it in or get the chance the coach added an additional 30-40 min. batting practice on another night.  It got to be a lot.  Especially since James works 2 nights a week which means that I have to take both kids to a practice and/or game by myself.  My mom and step dad would come to games and that was always a huge help but entertaining a 3 year old for 2 hours at a middle school ball field (meaning no playgroup) was torture.

I guess all that practicing worked because the team did well.  Noa was sporadic in his hitting and only played in the outfield for 2-3 innings a game.  The infield for this team were all the 8 year olds who are going to move up to the kid pitch league in the fall.  I have to state now that I was and am TOTALLY fine with him only playing outfield in games.  Truth be told he's a bit spastic and it's hard for me to watch him mess up a play.  But my issue is that the coach was ALL about winning.  There were also some inappropriate things said to Noa and some sarcastic remarks said in passing about him that James and I overheard.  But we let go.  As the season wore on practices started extending to 2 1/2 hours.  Keep in mind we are talking about 6, 7 & 8 year olds!  Things kind of came to head when we started the championship games.  As we kept winning the pressure and practices got even more insane.  At once point James got into a confrontation with the coach because in practice Noa wasn't even getting to really practice (he was just running bases).  The coach was wrong period.  James later made up with him so that the remaining games wouldn't be unbearable.  The team ended up making it all the way to the final championship game.  But they lost and it was heartbreaking because so many of those boys cried when they lost.  There was so much pressure to win ... too much.  And to be fair it wasn't just the coach.  I saw lots of parents taking these little league games was too seriously.  THEY ARE KIDS!! Let them be kids and learn to play baseball without all the pressure to win, win, win all the time.  There is a time and place for that but later when they are older and have more skills to deal with all the pressure!!

Good news is Noa still likes to play and wants to return in the fall.  I am happy to sign him up again but this time I am going to do some research and find a coach who has more of our ideals.

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