I recently attended a Little League Baseball game in Nassau County. Or at least what I thought was just a Little League game. It turned out to be a tutorial on how not to parent a Little Leaguer.
I’d gone to watch a family friend play ball. School was winding down, and it made sense that stress levels would be low, especially on the ball field. These kids were supposed to be having fun.
But why did they look so angry? Why were the parents so tense? These were 11- and 12-year-old children, not pros. But it didn’t seem as if the adults were aware of that.
Some of the kids looked miserable. Both coaches were riding their players. With every pitch, every catch and every swing of the bat came sounds of, “No, not like that!” or “Better keep that up, son!” After a while, it seemed to take a toll on the kids.
In the fifth inning, after a player missed a play on the infield, a man told the boy to, “Pay attention to the action!” and “Get your head in the game!” The player responded, “Dad, it’s just a game, and I’m exhausted!”
I thought to myself how embarrassing that must have been for both of them.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the field, but I played in many different sports leagues as a kid. I recall how competitive some parents were when it came to watching their children. And it’s fine to want your children to win. Winning is important.
But, my God, it’s not everything. Is that the message you want to get across to your child — to win at all costs, and to put fun second? Because that is certainly what it seemed like, and that’s not the healthiest environment for a kid, not in Little League, anyway.
I played for and against my share of competitive coaches. But at the baseball game, the adults seemed to care about the outcome much more than their kids. Arguments broke out between parents in the stands, arguments over whose kid was the better pitcher, arguments over calls missed by the umpire.
It’s almost as if the kids weren’t the ones who wanted to get up on Saturday morning to go play with friends. Instead, the adults were trying a little too hard to live vicariously through their children, blind to the stupidity of their actions, ignoring the feelings of the kids.
I’m not saying these were bad parents. After all, who am I to tell anybody how to raise his or her child? But the game didn’t seem to be about the players.
They’re kids. Let them be kids. Parents pay league fees so that the children can play a sport, join a team and make friends. At that age, having fun really is the most important thing. Some kids will play better than others, but unless your kid is the second coming of Mickey Mantle and will thank you in the end, let him or her enjoy the game and learn a thing or two. If not, then join an adult league of your own, and leave your kids out of your fantasies.
Reader Chris Giovinco lives in Oceanside.