“Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don’t care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out at the old ball game.” ~Jack Norworth, 1908
My dear daughter Emma, 12, is approaching the halfway mark for season 3 of her recreational softball “career”. Currently, they have won 2 and lost 4. C’est la vie.
The photo to the left was taken during season 1 when she played for the Her-icanes. (Clever, right? I wish I could take credit for it.) It was a great time. She met new people (which is not always easy for her), learned the basics of the game and, I like to think, grew in self-confidence. Her coaches were fun guys who were not OVERLY serious about the game, but serious enough, if you get my drift. So in my estimation, the season was very successful. Now, depending on who you ask, the definition of success may vary. If you determine “success” by how many games you win, well, that would have defined the Her-icanes as a dismal failure. To my recollection they had a 2-10 season. If you ask Emma, she would say that she had a great time, and she didn’t focus on the fact that they “only” won 2 games. That, to me, equates with success.
She played again for the Her-icanes that fall when the rec league divides the age groups up differently and you end up with a wider age range on the teams. My feeling is they do this because so many less girls come out for fall ball, but I can’t say for sure. Again, she had a great time and again the Her-icanes had a “losing” season.
Season 2, Emma played for another team, since she moved up in age divisions. She improved in skill, met a few more new kids and reunited with some from her previous experiences. As coaching went, it was a less great experience. The coaches were not bad folks, but suffice it to say there was some angst on the part of the coaching staff towards the “powers that be” of the league, which amounted to some feelings of our team not getting treated fairly. I won’t go into all the sordid details. But there was lots of whining. This angsty-ness spilled over to the girls and the parents. The overall ambience was about as happy as a kid going to the the dentist for a root canal. Emma still loved softball, but I could tell it was wearing on her. Top all that off with the fact that we went 0-8 for the season. It was tough. And after experiencing three losing seasons, I had a bummed out girl on my hands. Emma chose not to play fall ball this past fall.
Of course, we know that winning isn’t everything, and we told Emma that. Of course, we told Emma how proud of her we were. We told her to focus on the friends she was making and on how much she had individually improved as a player. All the things you are supposed to say to your kid.
After three consecutive losing seasons, Emma had definitely learned how to be a gracious loser—which is a very important skill to have, don’t get me wrong. But she wanted very badly to WIN. And, I’m not gonna lie—this mama wanted it too. As parents, don’t we want to see our kids win? We want to see them feeling good about themselves and about their accomplishments.
But haven’t we all met “those” kids, who have always been on the winning teams. Those who have never had to learn to deal with losing. Who have “those” parents who are the “bi-winning” crazy parents in the stands talking about their perfect kids, demanding that their kids deserve some kind of god-like status, arguing every call with the ump. Aren’t they incredibly annoying?? Yes. Yes they are. But we all know some folks like that. It sets a terrible example for the kids. I mean, they are kids, after all. It’s not like this is the world series of softball or anything. It’s not even high school. C’mon people!
If I am going to be totally honest here, though, I find myself feeling a little schizophrenic at times…wanting her team to win, wanting her to play well, wishing the other team would swing at terrible pitches, or, oh I don’t know, trip on the way to first base to give our girls the advantage. It is a very slippery slope towards becoming the “crazy sports parent”. And on the other hand, I find myself saying, “Girl! You need to get a grip! It is only a game.”
Last night, in game 6 of this season (Go, Crushers!), we were playing a team we were “sure” we could beat. I mean, in theory we should have won. The other team hadn’t won a single game all season. (Sound familiar?) We had been up 7 – 4 and suddenly, the other team is at bat, bases loaded and the batter hits a grand slam. Dang it. Suddenly, our win was not so certain after all. My dear friend, Torri, and I, found ourselves feeling the tension! YIKES! We can’t lose this game! Oh, the pressure!
“Get in the game!”
“Look alive out there, girls! You can do this!”
You know, all those encouraging things we parents choose to holler at our kids out there on the field. Yeah. Well, their next batter gets up to the plate. Looks like an easy out. Well, I’ll have you know, that little girl bunted the ball. Our girls struggle to retrieve it, lob it over to first base. It was close, but that little girl made it safely on first. My first response was, DANG IT! Then I looked at that little darling over there on first base. Her little face beaming. Arms in the air, doing her little happy dance. (Not to be confused with a “gloaty” dance.) I saw pure happiness on her face as she turned and high-fived her coach, as if she had never made it on base before. And I don’t know, maybe she never had. But in that moment, I heard that still, small voice say, “That is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s baby girl, who just hit that ball and made it to first.” I felt some instant guilt and the recognition of this fact: That was us last year. And the thrill of just getting on base was enough to make you do the happy dance. Forget about winning. Just getting one little hit. Scoring one run. Watching your baby girl’s face beam like that. That, right there, is success.
I was really kind of ashamed of myself for getting so carried away. I mean, it really is only a game.