Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Thoughts on the Life of a Youth Athlete

I blogged regularly throughout my son's very young years. And then I stopped. It wasn't even a gradual shut down. One day I was blogging and the next? I just wasn't. I popped in every now and then, usually to write a birthday letter or get my New Year's Resolutions down in print. 

I realized a while ago that something was missing in my life. Namely, the outlet here. A place to spill my guts and thoughts without the threat of jeopardizing some relationships. I'm not kidding when I say that Facebook, Twitter, and really the entire "social" media realm are cesspools of the id. I join in. I'm just as guilty as the next party.

Where was I? Oh yes. Youth athletes. So my son is now fourteen years old. He plays baseball, runs cross country, and is a 3rd degree black belt in taekwondo. 14 year old baseball is quite different than 4 year old t-ball. My dad used to say that one of the hardest parts of his job as a 5A high school baseball coach was making the game fun. Making practices fun. 

If you want to be good or even excel at anything in life, you have to use your skill. You must practice. You must do some rote things over and over and over again. And then do those things some more. It can be boring and monotonous. Now add to that coaches and parents who expect the very best. Who expect serious, "get to work" attitude 100% of the time. 

Baseball has become painful to me. I wear workout clothes to practice so I can get a few miles of walking in while Boy Pop practices. Some other moms do that, too. We are there for 2+ hours, so might as well make good use of that time.

But not everyone goes walking. Dads and some moms sit and watch the entire practice. Sometimes they are talking to one another and socializing, but often they have eyes like a hawk... Watching their player. Listening for critiques or praise from the coaches. Looking for things that they, then can critique or praise on the way home. 

We grew up in "Daddy Ball." If you're not familiar with the term, it means that you are coached by a dad or few. I hate it. Dads with very little to no experience with the sport, teaching your son how to hit, catch, pitch, and throw. Showing favoritism. It's brutal. Our team now has a mix of dads and paid coaches. There's a lot of yelling. There is very little goofing off. 

At the end of the day, they have a goal... They want each player to make it onto a high school team and maybe college. I get it. If that is the goal, then you want to be working with coaches who have that same goal. But it's a lot...

Here's my son's schedule today...
7:10 - Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, comb hair, get shoes on, grab backpack, and head to the car to drive to school. If he's lucky, he gets a little screen time during all this.
7:45 - Out the door to drive to school
3:45 - Get picked up from school
4:00 - 4:30 - Eat a snack, do some homework
5:00 - Hitting lesson
6:30 - Taekwondo
7:30 - Dinner, shower, more homework
10:15 - Brush teeth and go read
10:45 - Lights out

He's been averaging around one and a half to two hours of homework per night. This is just one day in the life. I don't work nearly as hard as he does! I have a really hard time being hard on him when it comes to extra practice and extra work on sports stuff. The kid has made straight A's now for the 13th consecutive 6-weeks grading period. He's obviously doing something right. Will he be a professional baseball player? I don't know. I don't know if he will play high school ball, to tell you the truth. This year might very well be his last year to play, after playing from the time he was four years old. The thought is simultaneously heartbreaking and a relief. I want him to do what he has a passion for. I want him to have some down time. But most of all, I want him to choose something because HE wants it, not because he thinks we want him to do it.

Right now, I don't know if he wants to play because we want him to play and put pressure on him to do it, or because he actually loves it and has a passion for it. He tells us he wants to and loves it. But is he only telling us what he thinks we want to hear?

This shit is tough, y'all. Sorry for rambling.

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