Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Relax, It’s just a game!

My daughter had a great softball season this year. I saw her grow as a player thanks to her wonderful coaches. They never failed to encourage, teach and guide the girls on the team. They treated every player with respect and continued to help them improve at every game. But what I witnessed on other teams from coaches and parents was not always pleasant. Luckily I saw a lot more good than bad but the bad sometimes leaves me shaking my head in confusion.

Why is it that adults can take something as simple as summer recreational league softball and make it so complicated? For the past 8 weeks I’ve sat in the bleachers at the ballpark and witnessed what is great about summer. Kids meeting at the ball field to play a game. I’ve seen them laugh with their opponents, who in many cases are their school friends. Most of them work hard, show up on time and try their best to pull off a win. And whatever happens at the end, they always congratulate the other team for playing a great game. Kids get it. They know it’s a game. They want to win but more than anything else they want to have fun with their friends. They want to be a part of a team and share the wins and the losses.

Unfortunately I’ve witnessed too many times this summer adults who don’t get it. It’s not fun for them. It’s serious. It’s business. They want to win and they get mad when things don’t go their way. I’ve seen coaches yell at kids and punch fences when a ball is missed. They argue with the umpires and at least once this season a coach was ejected for screaming in the umpires face. And the saddest part of all of this bad behavior is they not only did it in front of other parents, they did it in front of the kids. Although I witness similar behavior at times in the bleachers, I feel like coaches need to set the example. Winning isn’t everything. It’s fun to win. It’s important to play hard and do your best. But things aren’t always going to go the way you hoped. Sometimes the umpire, who is human, is not going to call things the way you think you see them from the sidelines. I don’t always agree with the call either. But there is no excuse for being disrespectful during a game to anyone. Sometimes the best players are going to have a bad night. Sometimes they will miss an easy catch and other times they will make an amazing play. And sometimes the girls at the bottom of the batting roster will get hits you didn’t expect. That’s what makes this such a great sport. Everyone on the ball field counts. Everyone is important; the coaches, the umpire, and every player. Even when they make mistakes.

Tonight was the end of the season for my daughter’s junior league softball team. I should be jumping for joy because her team came home with the championship. And don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for them. They lost only once in the regular season and once in the double-elimination tournament. They persevered and made it to the final game. I watched these girls work hard and get better and better all summer long. We were all set to face a tough opponent tonight. Our games had been pushed back twice because of rain but with clear skies today we were finally ready to play. However, when we arrived at the ball field, we learned that the other team was not planning to be there. So by forfeit we were declared the winners. I’m proud of our girls. The entire team was there and ready to play. They wanted to play their final game. But it wasn’t to be. I am also proud of the two girls on the other team who showed up thinking they were going to have a game. They were the only ones to walk out on the field and accept their runner-up trophy. The whole time I was snapping pictures I couldn’t help thinking that this just wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. There was no joyful atmosphere. There was no excitement after a night of fighting to win OR lose to a worthy opponent. They were happy to get their trophy but wishing it wasn’t by default.

There was a lot of talk tonight about why things turned out the way they did but I’m not going to spread rumors on this forum. All I know is that the parents who did show up with their girls were unaware of what was going on. The coach obviously didn’t communicate with the team. They didn’t tell our coaches anything. They just didn’t show up. The whole situation was not handled correctly. None of it was fair to the players. They deserve better.

Coaches who think that winning is everything, don’t belong in the game.


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