Too soon for organized sports?
On opening day, we all headed to the ball park excited. Well, two of us were excited anyway. My son, was not. We'd played t-ball in the backyard, so why did we have to "go somewhere" to do it? That's what I figured he was thinking anyway.
Turns out, it was fun. We picked up the uniforms, took individual and team photos, played on swings and in the bouncy bounce and ate hot dogs. It was all falling into place. Or, so we thought.
The first practice was a totally different ball game (pun intended). It turns out four of the seven members of my son's team have been "training" for the month prior to opening day. Training? They're five years old for goodness sakes. One kid's wearing eye black and a batting glove. All but two, our kid included, are wearing cleats. Cleats? Isn't t-ball where you learn about the game? These kids (And, let's face it, their parents) are seeking little league mastery!
My son, being the youngest and least experienced, is essentially more interested in the field than the game. There's dirt and grass and cushions (bases). He's doing his best to pay attention, but he's not really getting it. "Keep your hat on" and "Put your glove on" are just two of the instructions he hears from his coach. In spite of coach's attempt to keep him engaged, our son asks "Coach, how much longer is this going to last?". "23 more minutes" coach replies with a smile. About half way through, my son - arms outstretched - announces that he would really, really like me to come out on the field to give him a hug. When I reply "Stay focused, please. Listen to your coach", he turns his body to face his father and asks "Dad, I'd really like a hug. Please?" Although our initial instinct IS to run out on the field, my husband and I do our best NOT to disrupt the game. We share a laugh and nod in agreement to stay put. We're a team after all.
Toward the end of practice, our son starts to get the hang of hit. Turns out he's a pretty good hitter. The last play, he makes his move and gets in the game. He reaches for the ball and, wait for it, a kid steps on his hand. With cleats. Coach gives us the nod to meet him coming off the field to inspect the injury (there's swelling, at a minimum). Surprisingly, our kid is pretty tough. He wipes his tears and meets his coach and team for one last inspirational huddle. Practice breaks up and my husband and I offer up a hot dog and ice cream on the way home to make his first impression of baseball a positive one. By the time we get home, he's his old self again.
It's too early to tell if he'll make it through the season. It's raining now, so game one may very well rain out. Like everything else in life, it's going to be day by day. Or in this case, game by game. As much as I want to instill a "you need to finish what you start" philosophy in my son, I don't want him to turn his back on organized team sports too soon. I loved sports growing up and look back fondly on those early childhood memories. If we need to wait another year - or try another sport for that matter - so be it. Our goal is not to strike out.