It figures that, on the heels of writing a blog about letting kids be kids, the parenting world is all in a rage about a nine-year-old who is acting anything but his age. Turns out the kid can throw 40-mile-per-hour strikes in a youth baseball league that is used to pitches much, much, much slower. In an effort to level the playing fields (literally), the league has taken a most unusual action: it has banned the kid from pitching.
So sad. The kid is great. The kid has huge potential. And, a bunch of parents have decided to respond by banning him from playing. One team went so far as to forfeit their game when the kid took the mound. The other teams simply put down their gloves and bats and walked off the field. What kind of lesson is this?
Before we go there, however, let me point out that, according to the story, the kid is a great pitcher. He’s not wild. No players have been hit by any of his fastballs. So, check the “dangerous” arguments at the door. So, I ask again, what kind of lesson is this?
Seems to me the lesson being taught is, “Oh, we can’t win if we play against this kid, so we’re going to quit and walk off the field.” Seems to me that there is a HUGE opportunity to teach much better lessons.
I remember when I was a kid playing Little League. I was a great fielder, but I basically sucked with the bat. So, anytime I faced one pitcher in particular, I just put the bat on my shoulder and let the balls fly by: Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Sit down. One time, as I approached the plate, my dad said, “Remember, Todd, you can’t hit it if you don’t swing.”
A funny thing happened. I struck out on three pitches. But, I swung at all three of them. I tried to hit the ball. I even fouled one off. Striking out never felt so good. Unfortunately for a full league of players, they’ll never have a chance to learn how to strike out. Instead, they are all being taught that “when the going gets tough, make sure you get rid of the tough and keep the going nice and easy.” Heaven forbid our kids strike out.
In a way, I guess there is some relevance to the post I put up yesterday. The very same parents who often spend all their time bragging about their kids are often the same ones who probably wouldn’t want their Little Billy to strike out.
And what about the poor kid who happens to have a unique skill? What’s his lesson in all of this? If you try your best and you’re really good at something, you’ll be thrown out of the league. I’m thinking that nine-year-old feels pretty bad, at a time when he should feel really great. His parents are seeking legal advice. As parents, there are so many times when we just can’t get out of our own way.
This is just the most recent time that parents have gotten the competitiveness thing all messed up. There was the league that canceled its All-Star game because the mayor of the town felt such teams made the non-All-Stars feel bad about themselves. Let kids learn. They bounce back.
I’m not a hypercompetitive person. As a kid, I was one of the “how you play the game” kinda players. I was mad if we lost a big game, but it didn’t last. And, my dad wasn’t the crazy parent screaming from the stands. He just wanted me to try. Didn’t matter that I missed. What mattered was that I took my shot.
That’s what these kids deserve.