Growing up, I would often hear my mom, an art teacher at a private school, lament — “I don’t know how people can do sports with their kids. It takes up every weekend. Your weekend is not your own.” So, during my childhood, I took copious amounts of art classes. I attended an arts junior high and high school. I entered UCLA as an art major. But—I never did sports.
Fast forward 30 years. At age 10, my oldest son said he wanted to play baseball. I looked at him in the face and asked him if he was sure. A week after, I asked him again if he really wanted to do this. His answer was still “yes!”
I spent the next few weeks researching how we could play baseball in the local parks. How could he get the skills he needed? Through the course of my research, I found out the way kids learn baseball is through leagues. There are no skills classes per se. They learn though being on a team and playing games; games that are on Saturdays. My mother’s words were resounding in my head — “My weekend would not be my own.”
So, we started out our first season. The mercy of God put us on a team of other boys that had never played before either. My son needed to take it from the top, beginning with catching. Thankfully the other boys took their skills from the top too. They were incredibly supportive to him and each other. Being a person that believes my kids should get good at something, I felt we had a lot of work to do to bring him closer to the level of other boys that had played since they were 4 or 5. We were not in the sport then. We had 5 years of missing time.
As we played in summer and fall, I would always feel nervous about the next level of play. The boys always seemed so good at batting and playing bases. Their dads were good too. In fact, often times their dads were the coaches. I began to feel ill-equipped as a mother whose son liked the the sport; I was in tumultous waters, and I was taking in water. I understood oil painting and drawing; not how to slide into base or to know where the play is. In fact, I could not even really catch a ball. If I pitched to my son, it would be hideous. This was his game, not mine.
After trying to catch up during summer and fall, I thought in my mind it would be good to move to a league during the regular season where he could receive good coaching, really good coaching. We joined a Pony league one town over from our house. The coach had coached privately for a while. His kids were good. His son was 3 years younger than my son, but he always played infield. My son really wanted to catch. The coach said he would try him out in practice catching. As the season wore on, there were no practices, only games. The sponsor of our team’s son caught for most games. My son played catcher for 1 inning of one game. Due to the fact I had so much anger and strong feelings toward the coach, I missed most of the games. I could only tolerate watching for 30 minutes before I had a strong gag reflex—a feeling like the world was spinning and I was going to puke.
Some of my improvement gamble did pay off in the team championships. My son was hitting! When I would arrive at 90 minutes during the game, parents would say, “Adrian got a hit. It was great.”
Why am I sharing this story? Because I hate coaches like this that didn’t let my son play? No. I just feel sad. It doesn’t seem fair that sports are so competitive. I know my son simply enjoys playing, but in the game format, everything gets amped up and twisted. It’s like HIS performance starts to says something about me. But—wait, it’s not my game. I would never “choose” this.
When I get stressed about HIS performance, I feel that the one thing I can do is remove my negative energy from the game. It’s his game. He’s playing it. He likes it. It’s not my game. And to remind myself this is the truth, sometimes I need to be absent. I need to let him play without me getting mad or disappointed in him. It makes me sad that I need to back off, but my anger and my feelings are often intense and overwhelming.
The complicated part of this sport is parents do come to the games. For me to be a “good parent,” I feel like I should come to at least some part of each game. I do want to support my child. Is this how I want to spend my time supporting my son, though? I am not sure. So many team’s charters, rules, and guidelines say it is not about winning. But every season, it’s about winning. We’ll see about this sports mama thing!