Playing Hard, Kicking Tail

 

We had our last softball game of the season this past weekend, Alaina’s inaugural attempts at the sport an overall success. Having bypassed T-ball for coach-pitch she still needs some work on her swing and gets confused about where to throw the ball after fielding it, but she’s shown a cannon for an arm and no longer thinks that the goal of the game is to out race her teammates to every ball that is put in play.

 

our love of sports

 

There were no participation trophies given out, but had there been I would have let her keep hers and she would have displayed it proudly. Contrary to the recent statements from Washington Nationals star Bryce Howard, one of the best players in the game and presumably not somebody that came in second place very often, I’m not worried  that six and seven year year olds will never be motivated to succeed if they know that their efforts will be praised regardless of outcome.

I would have told her that she got the trophy because of her hustle. That even thought the third baseman doesn’t need to retrieve foul balls near the visitor’s dugout, she was running hard. I would have commended her sportsmanship, reminding her that while running the bases we don’t pick up a ball hit by a teammate and hand it to the opposing players. I would have told her how proud I was of her hard work, all the hours spent in the backyard practicing, the innings spent at catcher after she determined that would be the best way to improve that aspect of her game, the dramatic improvement shown in a relatively short time.

I told her all those things anyway. We didn’t keep score in any of her games and she never asked for one. Teaching was the goal, not winning.  She learned a lot.

 

love of the games

 

Also in the last week was “field day”, the town’s kindergartners and first graders massing on the athletic fields for various “stations” of outdoor recreation. There were no “three legged” or “potato sack” races, very little in the way of competition actually, with no ribbons awarded. The only activity with winners and losers was a wet sponge relay race that embarrassingly ended in a shoving match between my kid and a little boy from the winning team that she felt was gloating a bit too enthusiastically to some of her slower teammates. She was reprimanded and reminded to keep her hands to herself but I’ll admit to having to hide a small smile of pride while doing so.

How successful I was is uncertain but I made no such attempt at the next station, an un-timed obstacle course set up for them to traverse at their own pace. There weren’t meant to be winners or losers but Alaina and that same kid treated the course as if Olympic gold medals were at stake. They both were convinced that they were able to get through it the fastest but this was indeterminable and there was no repeat scuffle.

 

school field day

 

For now her cleats and glove will be packed away, not too deep in case one of our nights at the minor league park inspires us to some backyard batting practice or I talk her into a game of catch. In the fall another set of gear will be dug out, soccer registration mailed in just as her big sister is about to hang up her own cleats.

She went out with a bang. This past season has seen Kayla’s playing time dramatically decreased, a several year hiatus and accompanying conditioning loss relegating her to defensive back-up status.

That hasn’t stop her from making the most of her time out there though, her hustle and effort impressing.  Last weekend her squad participated in a full day, four game tournament that meant a lot of extra time on the pitch, conditioning tested for both players and spectators alike.  I didn’t last the entire day but did return in time for one of her prouder moments in a long time. She didn’t score a goal or prevent one, didn’t do anything that anybody else watching would have thought significant. She just knocked a dude on his ass.

The kid was one of the better players on the other team, looked about twenty five and brought it on himself. Streaking up the field he had a teammate wide open for the cross and instead chose to challenge the girl coming up to defend. Perhaps thinking that he was going to run right by her and continue on to glory, the look of surprise on his face as he looked up at the clouds was matched only by the smile on hers.

 

love of sports

 

Competitiveness is an important quality, one that should be encouraged to prepare our children for future success. Just as important though, sports foster a desire for self-improvement, a mindset of always striving to do better then YOU did before, not just being better than the other players. Sometimes they will win, other times lose. There may be first place trophies, participation trophies or no trophies at all.  As long as they are working hard and striving to be better, I think that the real lessons of youth sports are being learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “Playing Hard, Kicking Tail”

  1. Oh how I wish I could get my girls to participate in any organised sport. Looking forward to seeing how the football (soccer) goes, keep us updated, but I think the girl will do well 🙂 #TriumphantTales

    1. she’s always been super competitive. I was actually just working on a draft for a post about how every kid is so different at that age.

  2. Thanks for being a rational parent who knows the real value of youth sports! Your daughter will always love them with you showing her what they’re really about. Parents who get crazy competitive usually make their kids despise playing.#ThatFridayLinky

    1. I think my attitude comes from my golf days. I’m not very good and had to give up a lot of my own competitiveness!

  3. Beautiful words from a rational parent. Your kids will find it much easier to become well-adjusted adults with the guidance you give them. Well done!

    1. I think that there is a time and place for winners and losers, but they need to be taught and encouraged first. There is no reason a child trying their hardest shouldn’t be rewarded for it

  4. Love love love your final paragraph. I recently wrote something similar about school sports day and why it had to be competitive, not so much to give kids a chance to win but so they can learn how to bounce back when they don’t. Anyway….the other thing I get from this post: you are a big softball fan! Been years since I played but I used to play weekly. #thatfridaylinky

    1. Haven’t played since I was a kid, but I wish I’d stuck with it. Now my back doesn’t let me do much of anything. We watch a lot of baseball on TV and go to as many games as we can, so it’s cool to see the kids sharing our interests

  5. It’s so refreshing to see competition being spoken of in a positive frame! It is important, and one shouldn’t get a trophy just for showing up and wearing the uniform! Bravo Jeremy. Sports teach important life lessons. That is a lucky girl! #triumohanttales

    1. we actually have to make effort sometimes to temper her competitiveness. Its all about finding balance, as with much of life

  6. I think you have successfully instilled the right values into your little and not so little ones!
    Competitiveness can make people go far and even if the school isn’t awarding people, it is natural to strive to be the best!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

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