Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: Scouts and Sports
Scouts and Sports
Mon, 23 Aug 1999 10:29:54 -0400
Sorry for the lengthy post, I'm feeling long winded today, and this is a
subject close to my heart!
I've been on both sides of this equation. My son started out in Scouts, then
decided he wanted to play baseball. We did both without much trouble, only the
occasional conflict. Problem was, he wasn't very good. When he tried out the
next year, we learned that the only way he could play would be in the 'Coach
Pitch' (read: cannot hit) division, and they were short coaches. Being the
ultimate, fantastic and all around wonderful dad that I am, I volunteered. (I
know, sit down...) I ended up with a team of 12 kids that didn't get 'drafted'.
So I call the parents ("Welcome to the coach pitch Giants!" [I wanted to be the
Orioles...]) and hear half of them whining that their kid is playing on a
'Coach Pitch' team. One dad was so outraged that he cussed me out and hung up.
Another didn't show for practice and quit. Of the remaining ten, I knew my son
and one other boy. I explained to the parents that this was a coach pitch
league, and my goals were as follows:
1. Have fun
2. Be a better player at the end of the season
3. Win games
In that order. Two more quit because I didn't put winning first. I picked up
two more late registrants and one of them quit when I told the dad his son
would not play first base every game, but that he would rotate through every
position just like everyone else.
We practiced two hours a week, working on fundamentals, which is what these
kids needed most. All of them got to be better players, and all of them had a
good time, and we won a few games.
Unfortunately, sports doesn't teach sportsmanship or fairness, and the big
problem is parents. Four of the other five teams we played had a different
objective--win. At all costs. Kids playing at fixed positions, with those that
couldn't play either rotating between right field and the bench. Practicing 6-8
hours a week (2 hours, 3-4 times a week). Parents sitting behind the plate
saying stuff like "This kid can't hit, he sucks" when my kids came to bat.
Standing along the first or third base lines and shouting at my players while
they were in the field making a catch or a throw in an attempt to break their
concentration. One of my boys was injured when he was unneccessarially mowed
down by a runner while playing catcher.
These were eight year old kids, and their parents were setting the worst
possible example: Win at all costs, even if the cost is someone else's health
or self esteem, even if it means violating your sense of what's right or fair.
I was fortunate that I had (mostly) good parents that realized that my coach
and I were trying to teach them the game. We awarded an MVP and Golden Glove
after every game. Every player told us what their favorite part of that day's
game was. And whether we got beat 30-0 or not, we asked them "Did you have
fun?" and got a resounding "Yes". Hopefully they learned that winning wasn't
the most important part of the game.
The twist on all this? At the end of the season I remarked (off-hand) to one of
the parents that I had been asked to take over a Bear Den and I wouldn't be
coaching baseball the next season. I told him I was soured on the program, and
felt that Scouts had a better message for my son. Come September, over half my
team had quit ball and joined Scouts.
I don't say this to brag that these parents would put their kids in Cub Scouts
'cause I'm such a great guy (even though it's true <g>), rather, that there are
good families out there that understand that sportsmanship and fair play are
important to them, and that they want their kids to learn those 'good' lessons.
I suppose that if you say that some families are 'good' it implies others are
'bad', but I'd rather view them as misguided.
Sure, my boys were a losing team in a developmental league, which means they
probably didn't have a future in the sport. The parents from the other teams
would have called them 'losers' But, I've seen the results of boys that were
pushed in sports under the misguided belief that they were going to be stars.
When they got to the college level they learned they were suddenly nobodies in
an athletic senese, and they were one dimensional and had nothing else to fall
back on. They'd never learned to lose, and that's the most important lesson (I
think) that you can learn in life. If you can learn how to lose, you'll realize
what it takes to get better, and that you're not perfect (and never will be).
Losing teaches humility.
So, how do you cope with sports? Be there for your boys when they lose. Show
them the positive. Help them get back up. You can't force them to stay in
Scouts, and you can't compete head on with the 'cult' of sport, but you can be
there when you're needed.
My $27.42 worth,
Cubmaster, Pack 307