6 Ways to Not Have a Nervous Breakdown When Your Kid is Pitching

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Coaching Families Through the College Recruiting Process

Shortness of breath, trembling, hot flashes, lightheadedness, waves of nausea, dizziness, chest pain, muscle spasms, profuse sweating, fight or flight response and a sudden urge to evacuate your bowels.

No, I’m not referring to the potential side effects of the prescription drug Latuda… or symptoms of menopause.

I’m talking about what it’s like watching your eight-year-old on the mound. Especially if he’s consistently missing the strike zone and the batters aren’t swinging. It’s gut-wrenching enough when he’s in his groove and the umpire’s strike zone is seven feet wide. But watching your kid give up walk after walk, wiping away tears of frustration–that’s the stuff sports parent nightmares are made of. You have to restrain yourself from marching out to the mound and rescuing your baby from his dire situation. Under your breath, you curse the coach for letting this humiliation continue.

Then it’s over. And no one died. Shockingly, he wants to do it again next weekend.

This is what it’s like to be the mom of a young pitcher. I bet it’s a lot like having a kid who enjoys bull riding, except there’s no livestock in baseball.

My boys, both pitchers, are now 14 and 10. I no longer require four shots of tequila and a straight jacket when they step out onto the mound. Not because they only throw strikes. (They’re good pitchers, but both have their share of crappy outings.) But because I’ve had six years to learn to put things into perspective. If they stink it up one day, the world isn’t going to end. They may look like a total stud next week. Games are won. Games are lost. Learning to breathe and go with the flow is a vital skill for sports parents. (And some pitching outings I’m much better at remembering this than others.)

If you’re still in the throes of “oh-crap-my-kid-is-pitching” terror, then maybe some of the tactics below will help you to survive.

1) Take a Walk – To keep your muscles from clinching and getting stuck that way, you need to move around. A few years ago, I saw a mom have to be picked up, chair and all, and taken to her vehicle. Apparently, she’d locked her fingers around the arm rests and was unable to loosen her grip. That was way more embarrassing than her kid’s pitching. (I think it’s on Youtube.) But, seriously, when things get tense, I get up and walk around. Still watch the game, but walk and watch.

2) Think About Major Leaguers – When I remember all the times I’ve watched an ace pitcher, (who gets paid more per inning than my house is worth), walk several players in a row, it puts things into perspective. Suddenly my 10-year-old’s inability to find the strike zone during this one game, doesn’t seem so catastrophic. I mean, this guy made it to the majors and still walks batters!!! 

3) Progress, Not Perfection – No kid is perfect…on the mound or anywhere else in life. (And we parents sure as heck aren’t.) Don’t obsess about stats. Let the coach worry about the numbers. Focus on what your pitcher is doing correctly, or at least improving. Maybe he stayed in one more inning than his last outing. Perhaps he’s mastering a new pitch. Find one thing to praise and focus on that.

4) Save Your Energy – When you think about all the panic attack worthy things your kids could do over the next few years, you’ll probably want to reserve your nervous breakdowns for bigger stuff. Like when they get arrested, expelled from school, make you a grandparent two years from now or sell your silver for money to buy heroin. Makes freaking out over a few walks seem sort of melodramatic. Don’t ya think?

(I’m not suggesting your kids will ever do anything wrong. This was totally directed at other people’s kids. Ya know, the loud neighbors across the street. Or your sister’s kids.)

5) Trust Your Kid – The more you focus on his successes (see #3), the easier it is to sit back and enjoy his pitching performances. Let him be independent. Be his cheerleader, not his manager. I find that the moms whose kids depend on them the most, are the ones having the biggest panic attacks.

6)Pray – I’m not kidding. When the coach hands my son the ball, there’s nothing I can do for him except pray. And it’s an important thing to do. (No, I don’t sit there, rocking back and forth and chanting the rosary.) But I do ask God to be with him, to guide him, give him a clear head and confidence. I ask for calm and perspective for myself. After all, we’re doing this for fun, right?

If none of these work for you, there’s always Valium. 🙂

Got any tips to add to this list? Share them with us in the comments.

 

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5 thoughts on “6 Ways to Not Have a Nervous Breakdown When Your Kid is Pitching

  • January 31, 2016 at 3:12 pm
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    My 2 sons were pitchers when they were young but I don’t remember it being as stressful as watching my granddaughter on the mound. She’s very good. She’s made all state 2 years in a row on her high school team and plays on a college exposure select fastball team but yet I walk I pray I’m so nervous but very proud. Does it ever get easier?

    Reply
  • November 11, 2015 at 8:05 pm
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    Hi Angela! Just discovered your site. This site is an EXCELLENT resource for baseball parents so thank you so much for all of your work here. In addition to your outstanding tips above, I’d suggest that parents of pitchers be very careful in yelling out advice/instructions to their pitcher on the mound. Constant commentary from the sidelines can really affect his concentration. Fortunately, my son is now a catcher so its his job to keep the pitcher on track! 🙂 Love your site. See me on shetalksbaseball.com

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    • November 20, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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      Hi Maria! Thanks so much for your comment! I’ll check out your site right now.

      Reply
  • November 10, 2015 at 7:50 pm
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    Hi Angela! I just discovered your site and it is an excellent resource!

    The one thing I would suggest here is that parents of pitchers refrain from constantly shouting instructions and advice. I’m sure you have heard it -every pitch comes with a “a little higher there”, “a little outside there,” “there ya GO!!!!” If I were a kid out there, that would really impact my concentration. My son is a catcher, and his job is to keep pitchers calm and relaxed. It doesn’t help when his parents are yelling out “BEAR DOWN AND THROW STRIKES NOW!” 🙂

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  • November 4, 2015 at 10:44 pm
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    Oh Angela,

    You are right on with this article. My son has been pitching for 8 years now, and while I am much better, I still get a bit nervous before his outings. I’ve done all of the things you mention, and I like how you put things in perspective.

    The one comment I would like parents to know is this. If your kid is going to pitch, then he is going to have bad outings from time to time. Sometimes it will be his pitching, sometimes it will be the fielding, sometimes both. No matter, your job is to help him keep his confidence up after a bad day on the mound. If the fielding was poor, let your son know that he pitched well. Pitching is all about confidence. So, after a bad outing, make sure you support your pitcher and let him know that this happens to the best pitchers on the planet. My son has told me he appreciated this more than anything after a bad day.

    Tony

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