Our family's ball seasons have been postponed for several weeks as the snow stubbornly refuses to melt away. I have been indoors practicing since March, and the children's seasons are slowly getting underway, whether it be simply picking up uniforms or having a full-fledged practice.
I have played ball for years, and will continue to play for years...until this weathered body of mind tells me quite loudly it's had enough. My children though, are essentially entering their first seasons. And with that, I feel a bit of trepidation. Let me explain.
Most of my apprehension lies in how my son's first year of baseball will play out. It seems that our city doesn't have a "just for fun" baseball league that he could join, and he was quite adamant that he wanted to play baseball and not softball. Because of the heightened competitiveness of the league, I have this preconceived notion that most of the other kids have played for years. Nicholas, on the other hand, had not really shown the faintest interest in the sport and we have not pushed him one way or the other. As such, he hasn't been exposed to the trials and tribulations of pop flies, dirty bounces, or curve balls, let alone the rules of the game. I wonder if he will want to scramble up the learning curve or feel frustrated by any perceived or real difference in skill between him and his teammates.
Then, as we were sitting at the table tonight, the discussion turned to baseball and his most recent practice. He told us about some problems he had while batting, and some of the corrections his coaches advised him to try. This led to some debate about quick fixes versus correcting the true source of the problem. We had planned to head out this evening to throw a ball around, practice some fielding and swing the bat, so Nicholas agreed to let me see his swing and provide any tips and pointers I saw fit too.
This is where I truly enter the realm of anxiety. It stems from my own childhood, when my father coached me. He would give advice to help me become a better player, from a place of love and caring. But as a twelve-year-old kid, I felt like I was being picked on. I would often seethe on the car rides home, as we re-hashed the tiny little details of my play. All the while, my brain was screaming, "why don't you pick on the girl out in right field who didn't catch a single ball that came her way?!?"
So now I feel as though I teeter on the cusp of ruining the sport for both my older children, before they have even played a game. I feel hesitant to give any advice, because it could be received similar to how I received it so many years ago. Yet I know I have good advice to give, having had to work through my own batting challenges, reinventing my swing none too long ago, and spending time in each of the positions on the field.
As I quietly reflect, I know that silence isn't the answer. Neither is pushing advice that isn't wanted. Perhaps the solution is quite gentle, and can build our relationship. It could be just going to a ball game, sitting quietly while munching on sunflower seeds, and simply observing. It could be occasional rhetorical musing, wondering aloud why a player stands in a certain spot, or swings at a certain pitch. It will most certainly be asking for permission to give advice, then proceeding when permission has been granted freely. It could be lightening the mood by watching major league bloopers (like the ball that bounced off Jose Canseco's head, which we've watched a few times), mixed with highlights of good mechanics and sensational plays.
It could be letting Nicholas' own interests take the lead - he can decide what aspect of the game he wants to work on the most, and how he would like us to support him.