Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dealing with the Sports Dad/Coach: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

The Spouse is a great youth sports coach. There have been families who've specifically requested that their kids be placed on his team. He’s calm, reasonable and doesn’t put his own ego out there on the court or ball field. It's all about the kids. The recreational teams he coaches are intended to teach children how to play a game and how to work together, and his efforts and attitudes reflect that. From time to time, I’ve joked with him that he’s like the Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights) of the youth coaching set, particularly when he's making an end-of-the-game speech and awarding the game ball to a Little League player who stood out.

All three of the Picket Fence Post kids have greatly appreciated the fact that he’s coached them in one sport or another for years. (I put in two years as The Girl’s soccer coach when she was little, two seasons as a head coach, two as an assistant.)

Then came this Little League season. And I think the competitive pressure is getting to him. This year, more than any of the other years, I’ve watched him stress out over the batting order, over the pitching roster, over the fact that many of the practices were rained out and the team went on to lose tons of consecutive games. (They’ve won two to date.)

In the meantime, The Youngest Boy has lost some of his at-bat mojo because he was hit in the back by a hard pitch during a game. Now when he’s at the plate, he tends to back away and swing late. It’s messed him all up.

All of this has led to The Spouse wearing this pained look on his face during (and after) games when he’s frustrated because he feels pressure for his team to win, even though there’s been insufficient time for the team to practice and address their weaknesses. No matter how many times I tell him that it’s “just Little League,” they’re “just little kids,” I’m not really helping to improve his mood . . . though an after-game cocktail has seemed to loosen him up.

I so much want him to be able to take a few steps back and enjoy the silly insanity of it all, to see that he's coaching a group of kids who still find it amusing to make fart noises with their arm pits, climb the chain link fence around the dugout, giggle when someone says "balls" and who don't understand why it's necessary to shower after a game. When The Spouse is inspired and amused, it can be contagious, and that's a good thing.

As for The Youngest Boy feeling timid about stepping into the batter’s box, I hope that more, low-pressure visits to the batting cage will help improve matters. If not, then a nice ice cream cone or a slushy after the game seems to lift everyone's spirits.

No comments:

Post a Comment