Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Not Taking the Field - This Year

This is the first spring in many years that no one in our family will be taking the field to play a season of baseball (little League, travel team, high school or otherwise). This is the first spring in many where we are not discussing the upcoming practice game schedule, not hearing the team roster or even the new jersey color and design. I will not be watching from the bleachers, wrapped in blankets, because early spring weather is the most unpleasant at our local fields.

Our middle child and youngest son is a young adult, freshman in college and though initially it looked like he would continue to play baseball at the community college where his is doing his first years of higher education, he has decided not to take the field with the team.

He determined that though he loves the game and though he is actually pretty good, his future is not as a professional, big league, minor league or even college player. He is a smart pitcher, long and lanky, he does well on the mound. However, he evaluated his plan for college and realized continuing to hone his baseball skills there, while personally rewarding weren't the skills he needed to focus on, to become equipped to earn and contribute in our society. He determined that an increased focus on his academic goals is more important for him to grow into the adult he wants to become.

After years of investment as parents; of time, money, emotion, teaching and coaching (on my husband's part), learning (on my part), we are done with the game, as parent spectators of our own children. They are all are done as full out, committed training players. Despite our awareness that this day would come, it is bitter sweet. And in all honesty, a few hopes of our own are being set aside. So much attention is given to highly talented and skilled athletes in our culture that it is easy to hold the dream images, of full ride college scholarships or a pro athlete careers, as a justification for the time and energy spent on the activity of sports with our children.

Every family goes into sports participation with different ideas, dreams and goals. Dreams for our children's future are important, so is their developing useful skills. Factors in ours son's choice, as he began training with a higher level team, was his understanding of what it takes to excel and his recognition of the team expectations and culture. For obvious and valid reasons, the college team focus was athletic skill. The expectation was that players make their team participation their top priority. He recognized, that his long term goals required him to make academic achievement his top priority. Doing everything well at the same time isn't always possible. His decision to prioritize his time to accomplish his academic goals and to surround himself with support for those skills was a smart and mature one for him to make.

The awareness of what it takes to truly be excellent in a chosen area of study or skill development was in no small way, made possible by his participation in sports. To achieve what he did as a baseball player, routinely featured on the pitchers mound on a high school varsity team, took many hours of practice beginning at a young age. There was much fun and many rewards along the way but there were also sacrifices made, on his part, to achieve that goal. All three of our children have acquired the knowledge of what kind of commitment it takes to achieve excellence in any given field through their development of skills as athletes. That knowledge will serve them well.

As a family we also gained; many special memories, community connections, time and new experiences together. We all developed friendships with coaches, mentors and peers. We gained relationships and goodness and joy that we continue to value.

We are letting go of some dreams and the pre-organized ongoing summer family activity.
I will miss; the regularly scheduled time outside, watching my son on the pitchers mound, watching him grow and develop that specific skill. I will miss the opportunity to observe first hand as he excels. I will, especially miss, seeing my husband teaching, working with, encouraging and enjoying his children at the park and on the field.

As much as baseball interfered with plans and ideas I may have had for other summer family activities, there was also the up side of having so much of that planned and organized for us. It may have not been the longed for trip to the beach or Disney but it was something we all attended together, outdoors, with each other, friends and community.

Our family will continue to follow baseball at a few levels. When the Little League World Series comes around we'll probably watch a few of the televised games. We'll reminisce about our own trips to Williamsport as spectators and the seasons we had high hopes of being one of those accomplished and very lucky teams. Favorite college teams will be on our radar and the local pro teams stats (Cubs or Socks?) will provide conversation fodder over a family meal.

But as for active, get your gear ready participation, for Run Ran Fam, that's a wrap.

For a continued worthwhile read with more on the benefit of community team sports participation, read high school senior, John Pesce's award winning essay recounting his Little League experience. Play ball!

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