Playing for the Love of the Game

We play baseball and softball because the game is exciting and competitive. We become hooked on the game because it is challenging. Just when you think you have figured out the game of baseball or softball, it throws you a curve. You think your swing is locked in after going 3-4 with a HR, 6 RBIs and the game winner. The next day you go 0-3 with 3 Ks and it looks like you've never swung a bat before. Big leaguers go through it. Little leaguers go through it.

The question you must ask yourself as parents and players is this: "How do you react to the minefield of failure that this great game possesses?" Do you flip out and throw your bat hoping it will make the "sweet spot" come to life, or do you anxiously await your next at bat so you can load up and let the ball have it? The great players of the game know how to refocus, spit out the bad, inhale the good, and reload!

An average player dwells so much on the game stats, the parents, and the fans that they inadvertently let one bad game turn into two, three or four. Soon, it seems like the world is crashing down.

Take a deep breathe and enjoy the game. The smell of the leather, the grit of the bat, the dust of the field, the lime of the foul line….Enjoy the game pitch by pitch.

Imagine that you are in the most stressful situation that you could possibly be in with all of your family and friends watching. Imagine that you are asked to do something that is so physically difficult that most people fail three times more than they succeed. Then imagine that the people that you respect and admire the most in the world are screaming at the top of their lungs at you while you are trying to do this difficult task. Sound Tough? Well… that's what I felt like the other night at my game…

Just the other day, I was at a game warming up my pitcher and she was throwing great, strike after strike, with not a worry in site. Once the batter stepped in the box everything changed…. Between the coaches talking to her, the people yelling, etc., the strikes became few and far between.

This poor pitcher suddenly looked like she was so distracted and frustrated that she couldn't focus on the job at hand–to throw a strike….

When you have people yelling at you or instructing you right in the middle of trying to accomplish something that is already super difficult… it isn't easy at all.

I know that we want to help, but at the end of the day it doesn't help.

My point? Let's get back to the fact that less than 1% of the kids that play youth sports go on to play that sport in high school, let alone play at the collegiate or professional level. Let's talk about the incredibly fortunate ones who do make it all the way to the highest level. They will tell you that the best thing their parents did for them was to be a silent source of encouragement during the game, and an ice cream-buyer after. For the other 99% who are just playing for the joy of the game, please let them have fun. If you think that yelling (even encouraging words) and mechanical instructions are helping your child, the odds are that you are making it more difficult, and more stressful for them. They have the rest of their lives to learn about pressure and stress. Let them have fun. You will be amazed how much more enjoyable the game will be for you, when you take the pressure off yourself to be worlds best hitting instructor. Instead, just be a spectator and a fan of your child doing something that they love.

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