The backpacks are once again filling up with information about spring sports. Helen plans to play softball for another season and Connor will go back to baseball, after taking last fall off to play soccer. I'll take my usual place among the other parents on the bench, and I'll probably hit about 2/3 of each child's games. If I'm lucky, I'll get to mess around with my camera at their games, which has become a little hobby of mine.
And that hobby is a good thing, because it keeps me quieter than I would otherwise be. I love sitting at a Big League game cheering on a team, and it seems only natural to do the same when my children are playing. But I'm becoming convinced it's not a good idea. What feel like supportive words of encouragement may be being received as pressure, which isn't what I want my children to remember. After all, my fondest memory of my softball career is the Country Time lemonade that my mom would bring, because I didn't drink soda and she wanted me to be able to have a drink when all the other kids were popping their Shastas open. That was good living, I assure you!
Mike Matheny, former Cardinals manager, spells out his theories on kids and baseball in his book "The Matheny Manifesto". He details his time coaching his sons in Little League, and insisting that all the parents butt out. There were some other messages in the book, too, which reminded me of how lucky my children have had it with sports. Both of their coaches encourage the kids to try new things, teach them to treat the other teams with dignity, and in Connor's case - let all the boys who want to try pitching give it a go - rather than just letting the few really hot pitchers have the ball. Connor hasn't wanted to pitch, but I think it's nice to be on a team where he could pitch, if he wanted. The coach sets the tone, and on our teams, it would just be unacceptable for a parent to yell at an ump or get too upset, but it is still absolutely allowed to cheer wildly for all of the boys. I'm going to do my best to keep it down, even when I'm not behind my lens.
I'll never be a Cardinals fan - my Royal Blue Blood just can't do it, but I agree with Matheny that sports ought to be fun for kids, and whatever can be done to reduce the pressure kids feel seems like a good thing to me.
Now - let's play ball!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book "The Matheny Manifesto" as a member of the online book club From Left To Write.