Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fields Of Dreams

Coaching isn't what it used to be, where you showed up on Opening Day with a hangover and a cigar. Now, in addition to applications and background checks, coaches are expected to submit to clinics, where their sorry asses get run into the ground by recent college grads. A soccer clinic I was at a couple of years ago still gives me nightmares.

Baseball clinic was yesterday. It was led by a former major leaguer. Granted, he wasn't in the big leagues for long, but he was, and that's a lot more than anybody else in the room could say. Now he coaches, gives some private lessons, and leads clinics.

It was an interesting night. To begin with, there were a fair number of women in the room, as both assistant and head coaches. It wasn't anything like 50/50, but still. I never had a female coach, although I had a couple of male coaches I would have been happy to get rid of.

The clinic was done well. He gave us some good tips on teaching hitting and fielding and I didn't have to get out of my chair. More interesting, he talked about reconciling the need to encourage young kids with the reality that many of them will quit or wash out over the next several years.

The kids on my baseball team this year are 9 and 10 years old. They seem so young, although maybe that's because it's my own youngest on the team. It's hard to think of telling one of them, "Sorry, you're not good enough. You can't play." Still, I know that's coming, perhaps not this year or the next, but soon.

I haven't confronted this directly, not yet. All of my kids are reasonably good athletes and they're not yet playing at the hyper-competitive levels. They've either gravitated toward sports they're good at or teams that don't cut much. There have been some disappointments along the way, as there always are, but so far they, and we, have been lucky.

I'm not quite sure why we ever tell kids they can't play, though. We constantly hear how sports build character, keep kids out of trouble, and generally protect the American Way. I don't buy all of it, but I buy more than I did before I was a parent. A sport, with good coaches and good parents, can be a tremendously positive influence.

If that's the case, why get rid of the opportunity? The room last night was filled with adults who were thrilled at spending time working with a team. Granted, most of us are never going to be able to coach the 15-year old All Stars, but plenty would happily coach a recreational league full of the All Stars' classmates.

I know that field time is scarce. I know that volunteers burn out. I know that money's tight, that boys and girls grow up and get busy with jobs and other things. I know that not all kids have equal skills and I know that they should compete at different levels. What I don't know is why we have to tell our children that they're not good enough to play.


Anonymous said...

Alternatively, it builds character to accept failure. I never had it until recently and it's hard as an adult to learn it.

Let them work through it young. It makes life soo much easier.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't care for the *not good enough to play* either, but I guess there does have to be a cut-off somewhere between serious and play. I just hope my kids' desire to participate will wane before they are told they aren't good enough...

As far as sports go, maybe it was easier when there were more pick-up games, when you could still play if you wanted to play. It seems like everything is so organized and scheduled that there are few chances to just play with whomever might be around.