Get the Program for Moms that Makes Getting Fit Easy!

by Christina L. Moreland

An amazing parenting experience memory popped up on my Facebook feed this week. It was during a time when my son was really struggling with baseball and wanted to quit the sport completely. The experience taught me SO MANY valuable parenting lessons that I wanted to share with you. 

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You know, kids learn so much more from sports than simply how to play. Important life lessons such as how to deal with disappointment, how to lose gracefully, getting right back up again, good sportsmanship, perseverance, determination, commitment, focus, camaraderie and friendship, time management, respecting their teachers and coaches, and so much more, are all learned by playing sports!

The flip side of that is what we PARENTS learn watching our kids go through the growth period sports foster, and how we conduct ourselves with their impressionable eyes watching us. Sometimes I feel like even though I’m the parent, my children are my greatest teachers.

So, first I’ll share the memory with you, and then I’ll share the unexpected lessons I learned from it, and what we can all learn by watching our children play sports…

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[Flashback to 2014] “Proud parent moment: Last week, Ashton who is in his fourth year of playing baseball, was convinced he wanted to quit. He wasn’t hitting the ball (likely from his eyes not seeing it) and begged us to quit. This was on the way to a practice, and we had a game coming up. We didn’t want him to quit, especially mid-season, but we also know he has a lot of natural athletic ability and we want to foster it. As humans, we tend to gravitate toward doing more of the things we think we’re good at, so I was convinced if there was a way Ashton could FEEL good about playing baseball or notice what he does well in it, he would enjoy it. The parent inside of both me and Lance struggled with the question — do I push this sport? Or, do I let go?

“We made a deal: we’d miss that one practice and take the full Spring Break off. No school, no baseball, but then we’d get right back to it. I explained to Ashton that his team was counting on him, his coaches were counting on him, and he couldn’t quit mid-season. He’d made a commitment for this season and he would have to honor it. We’d get through the rest of the season and then make the decision together… he didn’t have to continue baseball again if he still didn’t like it at the end of the season.

“So, at the next practice, the coaches gave him 4 chances at bat… Ashton is the fastest runner on the team and all of us were convinced that it we could just get him on BASE, he’d sail through those bases, score, and it would boost his confidence. So, we tried a new bat, one that was 4 inches shorter than his regular bat, lighter, and has a larger barrel for hitting. He hit two balls during practice and was eager to play his upcoming game!

“The following Saturday, he had an incredible game and hit a double, scored a run, and his hit allowed 5 runs to follow him! Ashton got the Game Ball that day, and his coach said, “Ashton, this is the most important game ball I’m giving today.” Can you imagine that little kid’s spirit swell up with excitement???

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“We celebrated by letting him choose the restaurant on Saturday (Luby’s 🙂. The first thing Ashton wanted to do when he got home from school yesterday was hit balls in the back yard, so we did, for about 45 minutes! He was on fire and hit at least 5 over the fence!! He wanted to go back out again right before bedtime and hit more balls with his dad. Now he knows he can do it and he feels like he’s good at it, so he wants to do more of it…

“Sometimes we all just need a little encouragement to get to the next step in life. We won’t know how long he’ll play baseball — maybe he’ll want to do something else next year. But at least we’re giving him a full chance at discovering his hidden talents. This one decision could end up impacting him for the rest of his life. We won’t know, but it’ll be fun to see how it all turns out. 🙂

I’m so grateful to our amazing coaches for working with him. This has been a big growth year!!” [END]

Fast forward 4 years later ==> Ashton is STILL playing baseball. When I saw this memory come across my feed, my eyes welled up with tears because I realized how many years he’s been playing baseball now — 8, and how that one decision could have impacted whether or not he played these last 4 years.

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When we celebrated the game ball that night, part of what we celebrated was him not giving up. We didn’t reward how well he performed on the field — well, in a way, we certainly celebrated his effort which resulted in an amazing game — but we rewarded his perseverance and his attempts to keep trying.
See, baseball is a sport of failure. It really is. Three hits out of 10 at bats is considered a really good performance!
And so many parents lose sight of that.
I see parents at practices and games all the time yelling from the sidelines in frustration, “Hit the ball!” “Focus!” “Just catch it!”
I know I’ve been guilty of the same thing, and I’ve had to teach myself how to sit in the stands and be quiet. I do cheer for him at appropriate times and give him a pre-game pep talk, but I’m also extremely mindful about not distracting him or by yelling something contradictory to his coach during important plays.
Why?
Well, for one thing it puts too much pressure on children to hear so many voices at one time. And I’ve noticed my son in particular tenses up and then makes mistakes because he wanted to please us. So I’ve just stopped. And if necessary, I get up and walk away.
There are many kids out there on the field whose parents are so hard on them to perform. And when that happens, parents run the risk of burning out their child on the sport and compromising their relationship, or worse, pushing them so hard the child gets injured from joint or muscle overuse.
I realize this opinion is not shared by all parents who have children in sports, but that’s what we’ve learned by watching our son. And the difference is that Ashton is not a super aggressive person by nature. Yes, he wants to play well and is willing to practice for it. Yes, he’s athletic and has some natural ability. But his personality is the type that you can’t push too hard or he will completely revert and shut down.

So I cheer respectfully. We focus on practicing during the week and talking about strategy and situational type playing. When it comes to game time, we might remind him of a few key concepts, but our advice is typically, “Stay loose and have fun!

Then we get the enjoyment out of watching him play a sport he’s grown to love. We video and take pictures. After the game, we recap what happened and what he could do next time.
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And this brings me to the importance of having good coaches.
I have absolutely no doubt that if his coaches (and his dad) hadn’t specifically worked with him that year on hitting that he’d be out of the game by now. Imagine if instead of giving him 4 at-bat attempts in practice that day if they had benched him instead. Or worse, just put him in the back of the lineup without working on his technique. Or if they hadn’t seen his speed as an asset and come up with a strategy to get him on base to help his team. Imagine if they’d just given up on him.
Having good coaches is so important. Part of the Kenny Chesney song titled, “Coach,” reads:

You were a teacher, a preacher
A mother, a father
A lot less taker than giver
A keeper of secrets
And constantly making
Believers outta quitters
For all of your time
And your heart and your soul
You deserve a lot more than a toast
But here’s to you, and thanks again

We’ll never forget you coach
 

When it comes to sports, I feel my job as a parent is to reinforce the commitment my child signed up for  make the practices, go to all the games, communicate with the coach, volunteer to help if you can, and at home help your child see his or her potential. 

Reinforce that performance isn’t always the goal. For example, focusing on areas of noticeable improvement is just is important as teaching good mechanics and technique.

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For example, the year I wrote this Facebook post, Ashton was in first grade and had just been diagnosed with an eye tracking problem. His eyes were moving in two different directions and we had to get him special prisms in his glasses to help control his eye muscles to work together.
 
 
Baseball is a game of hand-eye coordination — imagine how hard that must have been for a child whose eyes were doing two different things! Imagine how hard it was for him to even see the ball coming during a pitch! I’m still amazed every time I see him hit a ball and he has an amazing batting average for his age. This is often where I pause and spend a moment or two in gratitude with how far we’ve come with him — it’s still a miracle to me to see him play baseball so well!
 
That year when things were so hard for him, I had to remind him that his eyes were part of what was making it so difficult. And then we came up with strategies to help buy a little more time in the batters box — so he had time to make a decision and connect the bat to the ball. And getting a lighter, shorter bat was part of the extra timing strategy because it allowed him to swing much faster. We call it, “Fast Bat!” 
 
This was something we could see, but he couldn’t until we pointed it out and helped him.
The coaches worked with us. And that’s why good communication is so important in sports. We never asked for special privileges and didn’t expect them at all. But we did communicate more about our son’s personality and what we saw him struggling with, as well as the eye tracking problem, so the coaches could decide how to work with him.

And they did! And it made all the difference.

When your child plays a sport its a real commitment, especially if you have more than one child and they are all active. Sometimes for us, when the baseball games start, we only have one or two nights where we’re at home, because we’re running back and forth to practices and games.
 

It’s a crazy time commitment. But it also keeps us spending magical moments investing time in our family and in our children. Sometimes it’s the conversations you have in the car ride on the way to the ball field that become the most memorable and treasured. It’s often in those “in between” moments when our children learn the most — by watching us, by hearing our praise and encouragement, by sharing what’s going on in their daily lives at school…

 
These are the life lessons they learn playing sports — they may fall short of the big Win or even the play of the day, but each time we help them see their potential we plant seeds of compassion and determination for their next big event, whether that’s sports related or academic, or just a life goal they have along the way.
 

And as parents, we learn, too…in fact, we might even learn more than they do. I know in the future, rather than seeing the constant shuttling back and forth to practices and games as exhausting, I’m going to see the opportunity in the moment. What conversation can we start together that will have us laughing in 10 years? What can I quietly teach my children by example? Outside of the game itself, what lesson can we all learn?

 
baseball-glove-858367_960_720These are all the questions I’ll be thinking about as we load up the car with baseball gear — hat, bat, gloves, helmet, water, shoes — and when the field dust blows through the air and in my face, as it often does, maybe I’ll be reminded of something unexpected, but just as valuable, that I learned sitting in the stands and watching my son play ball.
 — Christina 🙂

(Note: All images on this website are copyrighted Christina L. Moreland, All Rights Reserved, and may not be used or copied in any way without permission.)

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