Contributed by baseball mom, Dana Brookes.
Let me start by saying that there is nothing better than seeing a parent volunteer to coach their child in his or her sport. I worked at the YMCA for many years and youth sports programs can’t run without caring parents who volunteer their time teaching young people how to kick a ball, throw a spiral or swing a bat. However, there comes a time when young athletes outgrow their parent and ultimately have to break up.
For our family the break up happened around age 10. Let me start the story back when our son Samuel was three. Age three seemed to be a little young to play sports, but Sam was athletic, and, like I said before, I worked at the Y, so I was able to sort of get Sam started early.
Our first venture was t-ball. My village, at the time, all participated in coaching. Sam’s Dad stood at first base, my boyfriend at second base, my dad at third. And, of course, me sitting down with the parents behind home plate. Sam LOVED having all of his favorite people with him. He would run the bases and high five each person who was coaching that section. He loved hearing advice from his dad or my dad. The games were short (AMEN for t-ball!) and we had a great time.
After we graduated t-ball and ventured into Little League, Sam’s dad still volunteered as a coach, but Pop Pop and I stayed in the stands. (No comment as to what happened to that boyfriend.) Little League was great because there were more kids to meet, more dads to coach and “real” umpires to work the games. By around age 8/9 when Sam started pitching, we figured out his dad was a really good pitching coach. He would work with Sam at home and always helped the other kids at the fields. Sam definitely looked up to him for pitching advice and had eyes to be ‘just like Dad’ as far as baseball was concerned.
We joined a travel team and the competition got better, the games got tenser and the coaches’ voices got a lot louder. What used to be a quick 45 minute game one day a week was turning into six to eight hours at a ballpark or an all weekend marathon of baseball. At this point the boys were getting nervous in the dugout; the coaches were talking strategy and the umpires were getting paid to be at these games. The tension in the air was slowly getting thicker and I started seeing fewer smiles on Sam’s face. We were all prepared for more serious baseball and excited to be in a better league. However the tension, yelling, nail biting and fighting with umpires was getting pretty intense.
During one particular game when Sam was on the mound, you could hear his dad criticize each pitch from the dugout. A light bulb went off for me. His daddy as the pitching coach was a bad combination. I truly don’t remember if we won or lost that game. However I do remember driving home in the car. Sam never cries about sports…ever. But this particular night, in a mix between anger and sadness, he blurted out to me that he “didn’t’ want Daddy to coach him anymore.” He said that the game wasn’t fun anymore and he wanted baseball to be something fun with his dad.
I was so proud of Sam and told him he needed to tell his daddy. We called his dad and he told him his wishes. I am not going to lie; it was tough on all of us.
We found a travel team led by coaches who don’t have children on the team and realized that Sam responded really well to their energy and instruction.
Sam still plays Little League and loves all of the volunteer dads that coach in the system. His dad will be a practice coach, pitching coach and work with Sam whenever he needs. The balance of both has led to a great relationship for him and his dad. However, he won’t be calling pitches from the dugout.
Dana is a single working mom. In between her 12-year-old son Samuel’s sporting events, they can be found at the beach. She believes in humor, giving back to her community through volunteering, and that being a parent is life’s greatest adventure. Check out Dana’s blog, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of being a single mom in South Florida, Duh!…Someone Just Has to Say It.