2 boys + 2 teams + 2(2) practices + 2(2) games = 1 exhausted mom.
The boys are in different divisions of Little League due to age and skill level. Minimac's team is made up of mostly first and second graders who are fairly new to the game. They know how to hold a bat and which direction to run the bases, but they still get bored in the outfield and start wiggling teeth, looking at bugs in the grass or occasionally spinning in circles. Junior's team is a little more competitive. Most of the kids have played before and know the importance of keeping track of how many kids are on base, where to throw the ball when it's caught and when it's safe to steal a base.
But during my many hours of sitting in camp chairs and bleacher seats, watching the teams practice and play games, and talking to the other parents, I have observed a few other interesting differences setting these two divisions apart, aside from age and skill level. Here they are:
Mac's Beginner Team -
Team Objective: Have fun!!
Coach Objective: Teach the kids the fundamentals of this amazing game. Emphasize teamwork, camaraderie, good sportsmanship. Try not to show frustration when kids are just not getting it. Encourage players when they make mistakes. Put up with endless questions and suggestions from concerned parents who were not willing to volunteer their precious time to actually coach the team, but are more than willing to volunteer their ideas on how you can improve your coaching skills. Most important - have fun!
Player Objective: Be a good sport, try your best. Do not cry if you strike out. If you are thrown out or tagged out, do not call players on opposing team cheaters, liars or poo-poo heads. And most important, have fun!!
Parent Objective: Cheer for all the kids! Positively reinforce all players with phrases like "Good swing Jimmy!" and "Nice hit Bobby!" and "Amazing catch, Johnny!" Enthusiastically volunteer for one of the following team positions:
- Team Mom - Responsibilities include notifying all parents of practice and game schedules, passing out league rules, collecting money for coach gift, and planning end of season party.
- Snack Mom - Responsibilities include assigning each player a day to bring the ever important after game snack, calling that player's parent at least 48 hours prior to game to courteously remind them of their snack assignment and alert them that #7 must have something sugar-free, #24 requires nut-free, and #35 needs gluten free.
- Dugout Mom - Responsibilities include making sure each player knows their batting order, assisting catcher with putting on the catcher gear, providing first aid if necessary, and reminding the players it is inappropriate to knock on any one's protective cup, even if it is their own.
Junior's More Advanced Team -
Team Objective: Win! Oh, and have fun. But if having fun interferes with the win, then ditch the fun and just win.
Coach Objective: Assist the kids in developing their individual skills and finding their specialty position on the field. Emphasize team work, initiative, good sportsmanship and most important, winning. Make sure the umpires know when they are making bad calls. Make sure the other team is intimidated by your team. Size up opposing team's pitchers to ensure they are following division age limit, request birth certificates if necessary. And if you have time, try to get the kids to have a little fun.
Player Objective: Win! Try your best. Don't cry when you're told to sit on the bench. Hit the ball, striking out is for wussies. Run like the wind. If necessary, knock over opposing team's players if they block the plate. Get your pants as dirty as possible, clean uniforms are for wussies. Shove as many sunflower seeds in your mouth as you can so you can spit shells while running the bases. A player who can't spit is a wussy.
Mom Objective: Support your player in whatever way helps him win. Bleach his white pants so they are clean and white as snow for each game. Supply him with sunflower seeds and Gatorade. If he gets hurt during the game, stay in your seat unless the paramedics tell you it is time to get in the ambulance. A player with a hysterical mother offering to kiss him better is a wussy. Support the other players with encouraging cheers and clapping. If another player on the team sucks, only discuss it when his parents are out of earshot. It is your responsibility to bring a better snack than the mom who brought it last game. Being competitive is being a good example to your player.
Dad Objective: Support your player in whatever way helps him win. Make sure he has the best bat, glove and cleats any third world country can manufacture. If he gets hurt during the game, tell him to rub some dirt on the wound and walk it off. If he strikes out or drops the ball, sink low in your seat and pretend you either didn't see him or better, you don't know him. Dad's with sucky players are wussies. Support the coaches when ganging up on the umpire. Remember, umpires are the guys who want to play this game but aren't good enough. Remind your kid that if he doesn't shape up and start hitting and/or catching the ball, some day he could, God forbid, find himself in an umpire uniform.
Now of course, Uberman and I do not subscribe to the unhealthy belief that winning is everything. And frankly, we think the competitive nature of this game is taking over what's really important, having fun and being part of a team. We realize their chances of being professional baseball players are slim to none. Uberman is a firm believer that being good at playing is not the be all end all of being a baseball fan. It's more important to know and respect the science of the game. That way you at least have a shot of, one day, having the best team in your fantasy league. Right?
Oh, no. It is far more important to us that our boys get out there and have a good time, get a little exercise and make a few friends. That's what being a kid is all about.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go help Uberman duct tape the bat to Junior's hands so he will stop throwing it when he swings. By the way, does anyone know where I can find a hot dog cart and ice cream truck for next week's snack?