Back in the Batter’s Box – A Daddy Diary

As I ready myself to flip the calendar to 2014, I have a couple of posts that were unfinished from earlier in 2013 that I’d like to post now.   Come Set, and Here’s the Pitch.

I hope this post doesn’t come across as me gloating about my little girl, but I’m darn proud of my brave (no Atlanta reference) shortstop.  And, maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to brag about our kiddos every once in a while, right?

Those of you that read these Daddy Diary posts know what a huge baseball fan that I am.  Insert Softball in place of baseball when referring to my daughter (and all girls out there that play on the diamond).  I stress two things to my kiddos above all else.  One, this sport is fun.  The moment it stops being fun, we need to re-think what we’re doing.  So far, so good on that one, at least that’s what they tell me.  They look like they have fun too, so we’ll assume so far, so good is as accurate as a strike down the middle.

The second item that I stress is that the team is more important than the player.  Team first.  Cooper and Delaney second.  That’s the order of priority.  I believe that they believe this as well, but as a Dad (and Coach), I like reassurance.  Delaney sold me some reassurance on Monday, July 8th with no false claims.

Delaney is a good little infielder.  Strong arm, good lateral quickness, can make just about all of the plays.  She works hard at it.  She’s earned the right to play.  I’m proud of her of course.  On the offensive side of things, she’s always been a scrappy little slap hitter, makes contact, has good wheels thus beats out most hits.  Then, May 16th happened.  She was hit by a pitch.  Let me re-phrase.  She took a direct hit to the ribs.  See, 10u Softball is the first year girls pitch to each other (in lieu of Coach Pitch or Machine Pitch), so the pitcher’s finger is not always on the control button.

Game One Post Beaning, not good.

Delaney looked like Justin Bieber in the batter’s box.  She was dancing all over the dirt.  And, this continued for another 7 games.  She either walked or struck out for the next 3 weeks.  I had to look back at old scorecards to remind myself that Delaney used to hit the ball.  And do so, often.  I was worried.  I’d seen this before.  She was holding on too tight.  It reminded me of “Cougar” in the movie “Top Gun.”  And, we all know what happened to Cougar.  He turned his wings.

Delaney Softball Back

Well, a couple of games ago, Delaney finally stopped doing the 2-step in the box and instead hit a 2-hopper into Right Field for a base hit. [Read more...]

I Bribed My Daughter. With Cash. And I’m Proud of It.

Delaney Softball BattingMy small girl is one heck of a softball player.  It is remarkably safe to say these are genes she did not inherit from me. In fact, I just learned to catch a few weeks ago. She, on the other hand, has been doing so for five years. Yes, five. She turns nine in a few weeks.  I’m not entirely sure she wasn’t born knowing how to catch.  Either way, she loves the game, has been intuitively making ‘shortstop’ plays for a few years now and can hit.

She chooses to play in her ‘off time’.  By this I mean, when other girls are playing with Barbies, learning to dance, or one of the other myraid ‘girl’ things I did growing up, she is asking her dad to pitch to her.  Or play catch. Or throw her ground balls.

She has a stance at the plate that I just love.  Even from a distance I know it is her…a tap of the plate with her bat, a slight wiggle of her bottom, a deep bend of her knees and bat up.  Unfortunately, in the past three weeks, I haven’t been seeing it. You see, this year, Delaney’s team moved up to ‘kid pitch’ from ‘machine pitch’.  This move brings with it a slower pace to the game and a level of uncertainty as the girls pitching are still getting used to the movement.  Their control isn’t always perfect.

And sometimes the batter is going to get hit.

And sometimes that batter is your child.

Three weeks ago, Delaney took a hard pitch to the ribs. I heard it. I felt it. I think every parent with me felt it. As tough as my girl is, the tears flowed and she was out of the game for the inning. At the moment she was due to be up to bat next AND was willing to go back in, the umpire called the game.
SoftballAngelsDelaneySSI was devastated – knowing she would spend from that moment until the next game in fear of approaching the plate.  And she did.

Her next at bat saw her standing further from the plate than ever before. With every pitch she jumped…terrified the ball was inching too close. For three weeks, we coached, consoled and navigated her terror as it grew to something that was nearly visible each time she approached the batter’s box.

This past weekend, I broke.  As Delaney waited for her turn, the batter in front of her took a ball to the elbow and came out of the game. What was before a timid walk up to bat looked more like a death march.  The first pitch was a ball. The second a strike. The third was mere centimeters from her head and she barely ducked in time. Before my eyes, all 53 pounds of her dissovled.  Her shoulders caved under the pressure of trying to hold her arms and bat without shaking. As she inched forward, her face crumbled in terror and embarrassment that she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. The rest of her at-bat was a blur.  In moments she was on my lap, refusing to remove her helmet, her body shaking as she tried control the sobs.

Powerless.

That’s how I felt.  This is a game my girl LOVES.  And she is quick to tell me she is NOT afraid of the ball, but rather, afraid of being HIT by a pitch.

“Mommy, there is a difference.”

True.  Her defense hasn’t changed. She still has a rocket of an arm and can turn plays at shortstop. But going up to bat gnaws at her. How to help her overcome this fear?

Shift her focus. Give her something to think about while she is at bat that supersedes the fear.

Jeff and I talked: money.

So I bribed her.  For the next game in this tournament (naturally after she had calmed down, taken a break and focused on other things with her friends) I offered her $20 if she hit the ball.  ”Really??”  Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. I actually saw a sparkle. Yes, I offered her $20 if she could overcome her fear, swing the bat and hit the ball.

“What if I get out?”, she asked.

“If you swing, hit the ball and they get you out at first, you still get your $20.”

“What if I hit it foul?” she countered. (now I knew she was getting in to it)

Delaney Softball Stance“I’m not paying you $20 for every foul ball, but I will give you $5.  You just worry about swinging.”

And she did.

Instantly, I recognized the stance: the wiggle was back. Her confidence was peeking out.

She swung and she missed. It was the first swing in three weeks.

She swung and she connected. FOUL. (DAMN IT!! I wanted it to be FAIR!)

And then she struck out. Disappointed. But $5 richer and a bit more confident.

And? That $20 is still on the line for the next game.

My softball girl is coming back to the game she loves.

 

 

Confidence Inspired

My 8-year old daughter performed her first public speech this past Monday. She did so in front of a school assembly of 500 of her own peers. Nervous Day for Daughter…more so for Dad.

We’ve heard over and over that “Public Speaking” is the number one fear among adults (ahead of dying and the thought of the Cubs winning the World Series…the latter will never happen, so no worries).

So, factor that fear into the formula of an 8-year old reading an excerpt from a book in front of all of her friends plus another 450 souls that she encounters in the hallways every day at school. Oh, yeah, no nerves at all. From me I mean. Sarcasm.

Delaney is a bit shy. Not an introvert, but just so afraid of embarrassing herself. She has an angelic voice but refuses to sing in front of any humans (she’ll sing to our dog). She’s a terrific reader, but had, until now, never volunteered to do so in front of anyone without the last name “Smith” (although that could be one heck of a large group if we could pull us all together one day). But, last week, she bounced through our front door and stated proudly, “I’m reading at the All School Assembly next Monday.”

She’s been exuding more and more confidence over the past few months. I can see her growing up before my eyes. And, I’m going on the record to attribute this to one major event followed by a succession of events that played off that event.

I’m her Dad, one of two people in the world that know her best. And, I’m right on this one.

The event occurred on the night of June 17th (just shy of 6 months before I received the aforementioned confirmation that her confidence is soaring like a softball over the outfield fence). If you read this blog post on a regular basis, well, thank you, and you’ve heard this story before, so I won’t repeat. Here’s the shortstop…er snapshot version. Delaney made a game saving play in a Championship Game of a Softball Tournament to force extra innings where her teammates scored enough runs to win in their final at-bat.

From that point in the softball season till the end, Delaney couldn’t wait for the ball to be hit to her. She bounced from the on-deck batter’s circle to home plate. She begged me to play “Fall Softball.” Of course, I allowed it. Shocking.

She found her thing. She found that thing that we all try to find where we’re in our comfort zone. For me, the most comfortable place I’ve ever been is behind the plate in full catcher’s gear and behind the mic speaking about the players in front of me. Each of us has our thing where the world slows down, we forget about all else except for what’s in front of us, and we do our thing.

Delaney found hers.

Now, I’m not saying she won’t have other “things” and I’m not saying she’ll be an All-American Softball player (I might have mentioned that a time or two in the past…maybe). What I am saying is this… She now knows that she is good at something. And that has boosted her confidence in other life skills as high as her batting average.

Here’s yet another example of why Youth Sports are such a great thing. Kids learn how to win…and…lose. Kids learn what it’s like to be a part of team. Kids learn so many things, but one of the greatest things about these games is it forces kids to find something within themselves that maybe, just maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise found.

I’m not trying to be the Softball Prophet here, but what I do know is this. The sport is good for my daughter. She found something inside her that I don’t think she knew she had. I knew she had it, but it doesn’t matter what I know. She needs to know it, and now she does.

I was there Monday. She approached the microphone the same way she approaches home plate. With a courageous stride, eyes UP, attention fixated on the task at hand, the 8-year old All-Star delivered. The student body applauded. It was a hit!

Sincerely,
Delaney’s Dad

Let Your Kids Be Your Teacher: (Even When You Think You Can’t Do It)

She turned to me and smiled, “I know what I’m getting you for Mother’s Day”.  It was said with a smirk and a knowing smile.  It is the kind of confidence one exudes with the knowledge of the ‘perfect gift’.  And in her little mind, she had it.

She knows her mommy.  She knows what she expects of her mommy and she is certain she knows JUST what her mommy would like.

Her Daddy leans in expectantly, “what do you want to do, Delaney?”

She giggles, cups her hands around her mouth to hold her secret close and begins to whisper.  Her Daddy’s eyes widen a little and  then he shakes his head, “Honey, we’re supposed to get her something SHE wants, not something you want…..she doesn’t even know HOW”.

Crestfallen, she replied, “but I could TEACH her….”

And a little something in me broke.

Because with those words alone, I knew just what she wanted to give me: a softball glove.

You see, I’ve been very comfortable with the separation of fun and responsibility in our home.  My husband and I split the two equally, but we have different ways of tackling them.  The responsibility part, I think, is easy.  That is 50/50. So is the discipline.

But it is in the ‘fun’ department where our parental roles are a bit hazy.  I’ve always joked that Jeff is the ‘fun one’.  He’s always had a ball in his hand  And while I’ve always gotten down on the floor with my small people to play…. I read, I do anything and everything creative and I’m liberal with hugs, kisses and snuggling, it somehow doesn’t quite measure up.

But I’ve convinced myself it is ok because I DON’T KNOW HOW.

Jeff is the coach.  He is the one who has taught them to pitch and hit, throw and kick the soccer ball like a champ.  I sit on the sidelines.

And I THOUGHT my small people were ok with these roles.  I mean….let me be clear: I don’t know HOW to throw.  When I try, everyone corrects me.  My catching is suspect…. I’ve never seemed to lose my fear of the ball.  And Delaney could probably beat me in a race even now.  She’s seven.

However, this moment made me think.  I am embarrassed by my utter lack of physical acumen and yet, SHE isn’t.  I had long ago given up on myself when it came to anything sports, but she is convinced I can do it.  It is a role reversal of epic proportions.

I had settled nicely into my role as the reading, comforting mom, but Delaney has other ideas. It is time for me to reassess my ‘mom role’.  I don’t only have to be ONE kind of mom.  I don’t have to let Jeff be the only fun parent, since my kids are making it extremely clear that FUN to them involves being outside and playing sports.

It may be June, but this is a perfect time for me to make a mid year resolution.

I’m going to allow myself to be the student when it comes to sports and my kids.

My resolution:

I will learn how to catch a softball because my small girl has faith I can do it (and honestly? That faith? Is AWESOME)

Have you ever considered making a mid-year resolution?  P&G everyday recently conducted a study and found that 51% of people who made a New Year’s Resolution failed to follow through on their goals.  Why?  Well, 70% say they failed because their goal was too big or they tried to achieve too much.

So, why not aim for something small? Think about the little things you can do everyday that would make a BIG difference in your world. (like learning to catch!)

P&G everyday is launching a mid-year campaign to encourage people like you and me to make life better for us and our families by making everyday resolutions.

Do you want to add one more home cooked meal to your week?

Do you think you need to take 15 minutes to dance and sing each day?

Do you want to teach your children the art of writing letters?

Letting my daughter teach me to catch a softball is not a monumental task.  It simply requires a little effort.  And it will make her year. That means it will make mine.

To reward consumers for taking these steps, P&G everyday will be giving away $100,000 in prizes during the month of June.

  • For each person who submits an everyday resolution to the P&G everyday Facebook Page, they will be automatically entered for a chance to win:
    • From June 1 – June 25:  Three $1,000 VISA prepaid debit cards a day
    • From June 26 – June 30:  Five $1,000 VISA prepaid debit cards a day

When you share your resolution, you can also include a picture.

I will be sharing an everyday resolution on my Twitter and Facebook pages each day during the month of June and I would love for you to join me.

I would love to know what you decide to do (and if you stick to it)  I will be sure to let you know how my catching lessons are going.

Disclosure: I am working as a spokesperson for P&G’s everyday resolution campaign.  Why? Because I use P&G products on a daily basis and it makes me happy to share this new project with you.  As always, all opinions and stories are mine alone.

 

One Tough Cookie

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This is the small girl who is always in ready position.

This is the small girl who has been playing ball for five years now – since she was three.

This is the small girl who hops before she throws a rocket from shortstop to first base.

This is the small girl who wiggles as she sets her stance at bat.

This is the small girl who stopped my heart last night when she fouled the ball off her forehead.

This is the small girl who, with a purple goose egg as her badge, got back in the game, batted and put herself right back in that ‘ready stance’ you see there.

This is my small girl.

She is one Tough Cookie.

Winning isn’t everything, but it IS something….

Ok – here’s the deal, I am about as soft-hearted as they come.

I WISH…..deep-down-in-my-soul wish….that the world was fair, but guess what??  It’s NOT.

There are winners.  There are losers.

Some kids are smarter, some nail their ballet routines, some can do flips off the high dive, some hit home runs, score goals and kick it through the uprights.

But you know that isn’t everyone, right?

cimg8167Why am I ranting about this?  Because my daughter is on a softball team.  She’s heading in to first grade, so the little darlings on her team are only six.  (This photo is actually of her last year) So, I don’t expect the full rules of the game to apply – but I do think they need to be taught some basics:  3 outs ends your inning, if you get out – you go back to the bench.

For the first 3/4 of the season, that’s how the game was played – with modified softball rules:  the inning ends when one teams gets three outs or 5 runs – whichever comes first.  But for the last few games, we are suddenly batting every girl in an inning – regardless of outs…..and, even if you get out….you stay on base to run?  Whaaaaa? (This is, by the way, how first year T-Ball is played )

I’m all for keeping it fair. I absolutely want them all to get a turn.  But they already know about the three outs AND they know to sit if they are tagged out.  They want to keep playing as we have been….So why the reversal?

Because the opposing team requested it.

And so our girls spend the game asking, “how many outs do we have?” and “how many runs have we scored?”

In the span of the season, our girls have learned to hit.  They run the bases like champs.  They sprint to get someone ‘out’.  But when they do it all, it doesn’t count?

When our coach compliments the girls on the opposing team, THAT coach replies with, “what matters is that they are having fun”.

Well, yes, it most certainly does matter if they are having fun, but it is possible to BE GOOD and have fun.  And it is possible to BE LEARNING THE GAME and have fun.  ”FAIR” and “FUN” are not mutually exclusive.

Of course I want them to have fun.  In fact, I’m confident THEY ARE HAVING FUN.  (unless they are bored to death by an inning that takes forever and outs that don’t count)

The funny thing is, they don’t seem to care IF they win, just simply that SOMEONE does.

There, I said it.  I’m done.

The world isn’t fair.  There are winners.  There are losers.

I think one of my jobs as a parent is to teach my children to try hard – their very best even, and to both win AND lose gracefully – because it is a guarantee they will face both situations as they get older.

Your thoughts?