By Jay D. Prince
Last month, I shared with you the highs of being a parent at my son’s baseball game as opposed to always being his coach. I’ve had several people approach me about that, and it still brings a smile to my face.
But in all sports, I often-times get more from the life lessons our great games teach us and our children than just the ecstasy of winning and disappointment of losing.
Other than playing for your school or a national team, squash is an extremely individualistic sport. It is one on one, day in and day out. That is one reason why I would encourage kids to play team sports too. Not only to try other sports, but also to develop a sense of team unity, team responsibility and team commitment that you cannot get from playing just for yourself.
Just three weeks after my son’s exhilarating hit to end his baseball game, he and I experienced quite the opposite in a baseball tournament to end his season.
As with many families, two of the players on my son’s team were heading out of town for vacations immediately after the school year ended and would, therefore, be unavailable for the end of season tournament. That left us with ten players—two more than the minimum required to avoid forfeiting.
On the second morning of the tournament, I learned that another player would be leaving for a camping trip immediately after that game bringing us down to nine players. Yet another was going to be unavailable the following day because of a prior commitment that I had been aware of for a week. That brought us down to eight.
Because of our precariously thin numbers, I sent a text message to the rest of the team to confirm everyone’s availability. I was assured that all would be there on Sunday morning for our win-or-go-home game (we’d already lost once in the double elimination tournament).
Then it happened. Fifteen minutes before game time, one of the dads walked up to me to say that his son would not play. Not that he was being disciplined for something; simply that he refused to come to the field and play the game. At that moment, you could feel a blast of air as the rest of the team let out a collective sigh—shoulders slumped, eyes popping out of their heads, and baseballs dropping to the ground. We would have to forfeit.
The boy’s dad was visibly shaken, saddened by the collective disappointment, but also at a loss for what to say.
I was angry, frustrated and extremely disappointed. But surprisingly, I wasn’t shocked. It was not the first time that this player failed to show for a game, not to mention several practices. He was a fun kid to have on the team, but from the start, I could tell that he wasn’t into it.
Despite the fact that our team was forced to forfeit, our opponents offered to lend us two players and play a three-inning game. We also started making phone calls to some kids from other local teams to see if they would be interested in getting out of bed to play a few innings—three eager boys showed up at the field within 15 minutes!
This frustrating experience presented our young players and the parents with a couple valuable life lessons. For the boys, it taught them the importance of commitment. If they have committed themselves to playing for a team in any sport, the consequences of putting one’s selfish needs ahead of the team can have a damaging effect on everyone else. And for the parents, it was a reminder to first find out if their young players truly want to play.
It was clear to me from the beginning that this particular boy did not want to be on a baseball field, and that’s okay. We owe it to our children to honor their wishes if they really don’t want to play. As much as I was angry, I respect our erstwhile baseball player for making a stand. I only wish he had done so, or that his parents had acknowledged it, before the season began—or at least after the team’s final game.