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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moral Dilemmas

It was inevitable really.  After starting the season 7-0 with some miraculous victories, our 3rd/4th grade softball team took its first defeat yesterday.  And it is fair to say everyone surrounding the team, coaches included, took some lessons from the game.

It started with a mid-week from a parents email asking to give their daughter a shot to pitch.  Seemed like a fine idea.   She had shown some interest early in the year and knowing the team we were playing was weak, why not?  Since only 5 runs can be scored in an inning we started her for the 2nd inning.  The other team scored 5 without our squad recording an out.  No biggie.  We were down 5-1 after and had plenty of game left.  Figures we would not hit a lick the rest of the game.  We played a poor defensive game on top of that and lost 7-3.

Now, we may have put her in a game during the season anyway.  And, in fact, we would like to give other kids a chance to get in before season's end, should THEY want to try.  But at this level do we put a kid in because they want to or their folks want them to?  I have been wrestling with that since yesterday afternoon.  Mainly because I saw the fear and angst on this young girls face as runs kept crossing and she asked to stop pitching.

"Stick it out" we kept encouraging her.  "Finish what you started."  Important to be able to go in there, face your fears, and live to tell about it.  More than anything that is what we are teaching, right?  But again, we also walk the line of putting kids in a position to succeed, not fail.  I may be able to teach a kid the proper batting stance, way to throw or catch.  However, when it comes to teaching confidence...  I am unsure I can do much there.  After nearly 40 years I am still working up the nerve to tell people to quiet down in a movie, or get off their obnoxious phone conversation on the train, or not throw away their garbage on the NYC streets, or wear age appropriate clothing, or wear deodorant, try a breath mint, or put their turn signal on when changing lanes, etc...

And to make matters worse, I have kids on the team who are uber-aware of the score.  So, when I agreed before the game to go only one base at a time in deference to the other team being short players, my girls were asking questions.  We had at least 3 hits that went into their unprotected outfield and ended up long singles.  And with runners on base I kept girls from scoring when they could have walked home.  Again, we want to be conscience of teaching quality sportsmanship, but at this age we have kids who want, er, need to win.

As did our opponent.  And if we were to take a loss I could not have picked a better team to fall to.  I liked seeing the exuberance on their faces and the exasperation on ours.  More teaching moments.  "See kids, we cannot show up and win.  This is why we play the game.  Any given day."  All the cliches you could throw at a 9 year old during the post-game handshake.

"Good game.  Good game.  Good game."

Back to drawing board as another rainy week awaits.  Now, knowing full well we all have work to do to prepare these kids for everything the game (read:life) has in store for them.  When you are feeling on top of the world devastation is always nearby.  When you feel invincible there is always someone hungry for what you have.  When you feel like nothing can stop you brick walls will find you.

And now, with a very important loss on the ledger, we go back to work.  Lessons learned. 

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