Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A question of honesty

Youngest Son looked pretty good in the fielding drills a couple of weeks back when I took him to try out for a travel team for next Summer.

So much of is wrong with youth sports may be found in the preceding sentence: Why the heck are we trying out for a baseball team for next Summer before the end of this Summer? But these are the conditions which prevail; whether you like it or not, you must accept as a given that, if the boy wants to play travel ball next Summer, he’d have to catch on somewhere now.

I told Youngest Son he looked pretty good in the fielding drill, but I thought his outfield throws weren’t as good as some of the others I saw. I couldn’t see the kids' batting practice very well; they staged it on a diamond across the way and it didn’t look like the other fathers were going over to watch. So I stayed put. There’s a herd mentality that quickly forms at these things.

Youngest Son had no doubts as we left the park. “I did good, Dad. I think I’m on this team.”

Last Fall, when we tried out for a different travel team, Youngest Son was not nearly as confident. “I was in the middle,” he told me after the second day of tryouts. So we sat on tenterhooks all weekend waiting for the cut list to be posted. And he made the first cut – which gave us the opportunity to go back for a second weekend of tryouts. After the first day of the second weekend, he was pessimistic. “I’m on the bottom of this group,” he told me. After the second day of the second weekend, the coach called me over... and that’s how Youngest Son and I wound up spending this season at Bluejay Park.

But this time, Youngest Son was upbeat. He didn’t waver when he got called back for a second tryout, just to see him pitch and catch. Only three boys were present. One hadn’t been to the first tryout. But what about the other kid? And where did that leave Youngest Son? I wondered – but Youngest Son had no doubt.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised when the call came in Saturday that Youngest Son had indeed made the team.

But it got me thinking about how honest kids can be in evaluating themselves. I’m pretty sure it’s not limited to Youngest Son. I recall when Oldest Son was a high school junior, trying to catch on as a second baseman with the high school varsity. “It’ll depend on how much Dan McGee pitches this season,” he told me. McGee played second when he wasn’t pitching. If McGee could pitch, they’d need Oldest Son to back up at second. But McGee had a sore arm, my son told me; he’d probably get cut if McGee could only play the infield. I asked Oldest Son if McGee was really that much better than him. Oldest Son looked at me like I was completely stupid. (Of course, I get that look a lot. And not just concerning baseball. And not just from my kids. And McGee – no, not his real name – couldn’t pitch, but Oldest Son made the team anyway. But McGee is playing Division I baseball now; Oldest Son has retired.)

Nor do I think this brutally honest streak is confined to my children. When I did my tour of duty on the parish Athletic Committee, a regular topic of conversation was how ‘cuts’ were handled. It wasn’t the kids who were complaining about cuts; it was the parents. And my fellow committee members – all of whom know more about this stuff than I ever will – all insisted that the kids (boys and girls alike) know where they stand even when the parents are clueless.

I can understand why parents can’t objectively evaluate their own kids’ skills – even I’m not that dense – but what happens to us as we get older? What happens to our ability to honestly evaluate ourselves?


Jean-Luc Picard said...

I like baseball, but it doesn't get any coverage in England exce3pt for the World Series in the middle of the night.

off line said...

"...but what happens to us as we get older? What happens to our ability to honestly evaluate ourselves?"

Could be just me but i never had your kids talent when i was young. I think it says something about your (and wife's) parenting that you're kids have this ability to evaluate themselves fairly.

Myself, as time goes on i get better at being able to note my strengths.

I'm happy for you sons.

cmhl said...

youth sports stress me out.. and my oldest is actively involved, but as a mom, it just makes me anxious to see them 'out there' so to speak.. and the boys are so competitive, but NOTHING compared to the parents!


rdl said...

I'm with cmhl - youth sports stress me out too. The competitivness is way over the top. But then I am against cuts til 8th Gr. Read a great article on this by a coach. Will have to find the link and post it.

The Curmudgeon said...

Unfortunately, Captain, World Series coverage here also seems too often to last well into the wee small hours.

edie -- I wasn't intending to brag on my own kids -- but thank you for your nice words. My point was that all kids, boys and girls alike, seem to know how they stack up against their peers, at least in sports. Social matters are, unfortunately, different, even for the kids.

cmhl, rdl -- hey, youth sports stress me out, too, which is why I've written about them so often here. rdl, I'll be looking for that link -- 8th grade may be a bit late to start with cuts, but I agree it's silly to cut kids when they're 8 or 9 or 10. On the other hand, you can't carry 20 kids on a basketball team, can you?