Our First Experience with Organized Sports
“I want to play baseball”, he said.
You know when your kid says something and you nod and go “oh, that’s great baby”, then move on to making dinner or folding laundry. Well, let’s just say I treated this statement the same as his declarations of “I want to be Spiderman” and “I want to live in a tent and sleep in the backyard”.
But when he repeated “I want to play baseball” three days in a row, I started to take this request seriously. “Really? Baseball?” Apparently a kid in his preschool class was going to be playing baseball. He was going to get to wear a uniform and be on a team and swing a bat, and my little guy wanted EVERYTHING to do with that.
“Ok, let’s play baseball,” I said.
Let me preface by saying that I was not sporty as a kid. I played softball one season and I dabbled in competitive swimming, but organized sports were not my jam. I had no clue how to sign a kid up for a league. So, I took to my Burlington moms Facebook group and asked “My kid wants to play baseball. How do I make this happen?” As always, the mom tribe of Facebook came through and sent me in the direction of the Burlington Amateur Softball Association (BASA).
Of course, I had no idea that summer sports registration actually takes place in February (it was mid-April), so all of the teams were full. Luckily enough there was a waitlist which I promptly added him to, then volunteered my husband to be a coach if they would put together another team. About a week later I was able to tell my little guy that he would be on a baseball team. Cheers and hugs for Mommy!
I also told Daddy he would be a coach. “Uh, you know I’ve never played baseball, right?” he said. “It’s a bunch of four-year-olds hitting a ball of a tee,” I said. “How hard can it be?”
So off we went, this little family of a mom who knew nothing about organized sports, a dad who had never played baseball and a four-year-old who was just over the moon about the idea of wearing a uniform and swinging a bat. Our first experience with organized sports.
First came the much desired uniform. Because Daddy was the coach, my kid got first pick of his number. I had no idea the intensity of thought that would go into this number selection situation. After much deliberation, he picked number 2.
Baseball excitement in our house was high. Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side and the first five games got rained out! Would all of this enthusiasm over this baseball thing fade away and come the first game he’d say he didn’t want to play?
Well, if he couldn’t play baseball, I’d have to keep the excitement up on my own. So I got baseball books (I had Brady Brady on repeat). I talked about the Blue Jays (a team I admit we haven’t watched since the 2015 playoff run when Jose Bautista was the cat’s pyjamas). I had just paid $250 for him to play this sport and our family budget only allowed for one sport per season, so I crossed my fingers and prayed his enthusiasm would carry through the season.
Finally, a bright sunny day came and it was time to play. We packed up the bag containing the bats, balls, and catcher uniform and headed to the field.
The catcher uniform. Ok, here’s something about my son; he LOVES playing sports dress-up. Part of me thinks the reason he loves sports so much is the wardrobe change. While all the other kids seemed scared of putting on the mask and thought the shin guards and chest pad were too heavy for their tiny frames, my little guy thought that catcher’s uniform was the coolest thing ever, and even crouched down to play the position. Drama major, anyone?
Catcher also became his most desired position when he realized it put him in the center of play. Here’s something else I learned about organized sports; particularly baseball. Kids are incredibly bored when they aren’t PLAYING. When it was his team’s turn to play the outfield, most of the kids sat down and made ant hills in the sand. If he was put in the field (ie. not the catcher), he didn’t want to play and would run over to the sidelines and try to sit on my lap.
Ummm… no. “Your team is all out there on the field so that’s where you need to be”.
Here’s one thing that I really love about organized sports; the opportunity to talk about being part of a team. On one particularly bad day, he refused to do anything that involved the field. He just wanted to hit and run. “You’re not a designated hitter, kiddo. That might be your position when you hit the major leagues, but for now, you have to play the bases.” He refused, deciding that climbing the fence was a better way to spend his time. So I took him out of the game. He cried when he realized he was missing the end of game handshake (a ritual that was almost as beloved as putting on the uniform).
I’m sure some of the parents disagreed with my decision, but in my opinion if you’re not going to stand with your team during the entire game then you don’t get to stand with them for the end of game handshake.
I brought the lesson home and talked about being “team family”; the idea that we each have a role to play in order for our household to run smoothly.
Around week 7, I got the “I don’t want to go to baseball”. We spoke at length before we signed up that if we committed to the sport, he would have to go to all of the games. “You don’t ever have to play baseball after this season, but you have to finish what you started.” He reluctantly agreed that commitment was important and he never missed a game. #momwin
At the end of the season, the kids all received a trophy. I don’t think anyone ever kept score at the games, and I know what people say about participation medals and ribbons and such, and I completely agree that kids need to learn that there are winners and losers in sport and in life, but I realized in reflecting upon all of the lessons this first experience with organized sports had taught us, it wasn’t about winning and losing, it was all about participating. Did you participate? Did you stand with your team? Did you show up? At four years old, I think that’s enough of a lesson. We’ll save the lessons about winning and losing for the next sport, which little guy has decided will be hockey. (eek!)