T-BALL: baseball modified for youngsters in which the ball is batted from a tee of adjustable height rather than being pitched
Sports have changed a great deal since I was a kid. When I was young, I played softball in upper elementary school on a team organized by the town parks and recreation department. In seventh grade, I heard about volleyball try-outs days before they occurred. I showed up, they taught me the basics, and I went on to play throughout junior high and high school. Sports started when kids were coordinated enough to do them and mature enough to understand the rules. The emphasis was on sportsmanship and teamwork.
Kids these days (I find myself using this phrase more and more, which I’m certain is a sign that I’m getting old) are starting to play much younger. Son is five and he just started “rookie” T-ball. Everyone gets to bat every inning, you can swing as many times as needed to make contact with the ball, and players can stay on the base even if they are out. Oh, and they don’t keep score. In other words…T-ball without Tears.
This is Son’s first team sport. Many of his preschool friends have already played a season or two of soccer, basketball, etc. If I’m completely honest, I’ve been dreading this.
Yes, I’m glad Son is excited about this new activity. I’m glad he is meeting new friends from our neighborhood. I’m glad he is learning the importance of teamwork. But, I tend to put preschool sports in the same category as birthday goodie bags. I mean, really…when did this madness begin?
Why can’t kids wait to play sports until they are old enough not to cry when they strike out? Or when they don’t get to bat? Or when the ball gets to first base before them? Why can’t they wait until they understand that they must run counterclockwise around the baseball diamond? Or…and here I’m getting really snarky…until they have the coordination to catch a ball thrown by another child?
Changing the rules of the game to avoid disappointment seems like cheating to me. Part of learning sportsmanship – arguably the point of preschoolers playing sports – is learning to win and lose graciously. Kids these days (again…geez, I better check for gray hairs when I’m done typing!) miss out on a lot of opportunities to deal with disappointment.
Remember when birthday parties were about the birthday boy or girl? When you brought a present and left empty handed? Now the goody bags Son and Daughter bring home are as elaborate the gifts we bring. My kids are learning to see birthday parties as gift exchange rather than a gift delivery. I wish they had more chances to exercise their yearning muscles –to watch their friends open gifts and long for the day it will be their turn.
But, alas…I am weak and have caved to peer pressure. I don’t really want to be the mother who stands on principle and sends bright-eyed expectant children away from Son and Daughter’s birthday parties empty handed. Nor do I want to be the mother whose Son questions why he is the only child who never played T-ball.
It feels like “everyone is doing it.” And, while I will discount that as solid reasoning when my children reach adolescence, I find myself giving in to the doubts and fears of non-conformance. I fear that excluding Son and Daughter will put them behind their peers in skills and knowledge by the time the “real” sports come along. I fear that lack of experience with translate to lack of confidence and make them reluctant to participate in the joy of team sports. Since I want my children to have good team sport experiences like I did, I find myself caught up in the insanity of “rookie” T-ball.
I have swallowed my principles, made plates of rice crispy treats, and prepared early dinners…all in the name of T-ball without Tears.