Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hard time talking baseball, BassAckwards, and Eagles?

I'm in Atlanta doing a dream job as an analyst for Fox Sports South.  It's not as easy commentating right now as it has been in the past, and it's not because the Braves are currently 27 games below .500.  Talking about baseball is difficult right now because I lost my voice.  

"How did you lose your voice?'' you may ask.  I lost my voice yelling while coaching a Tball All-Star team.  Let me clarify that most of the yelling was me trying to make my voice heard over the parents on both teams "cheering." That "cheering" was more coaching from the stands, but that's what parents do.  What coaches do, is try to direct, and to do that, I crossed the line into yelling.  Whether it's yelling TO or AT five-year olds really doesn't matter, either is ridiculous!  It is asinine, and it has left me with no voice trying to talk about real baseball pondering where we've gone wrong.

I've thought a lot over the past two days about this. I've gone way further in my thinking than I thought I would.  (See when I'm forced to be quiet I can actually sit back and think)

Our society as a whole is bassackwards when it comes to our kids.  Think about it.  We are setting world records left and right for "youngest child ever to _______." 

Check your Facebook feed, and you'll see things like "5 year-old Pele" "Pint sized Steph Curry" and one I saw today, "Mini Thor is just as dangerous as Noah Syndergaard."  

It's not limited to sports parents.  It seems like everyday there is a new piano prodigy, chess wiz, or singing sensation that goes viral.  Are talented kids a bad thing?  Absolutely not!  Do I think parents being proud, even bragging, about their kids is bad? Of course not.  I just posted this picture myself to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! (Way to go Jake!)

So where's my problem?  I think my problem comes as I look at the kids that are now 15-18 years old.  Stay with me please!  We push and push our 4-11 year olds, but as our kids get older somehow we accept laziness and mediocrity.
Extreme Example:  A parent wants to raise the next Taylor Swift.  The now 15 year-old daughter didn't get 100,000 views on her latest cover of 'I Will Always Love You' on her YouTube channel. She feels like a failure because she had 250,000 views when she sang the same song as a toddler. The 'prime years' to make it big are gone.  The dream is over.  The child has now accepted she is just average, and the parents to make up for the guilt of dragging their daughter to 6 dance classes a week and making the girl sing bars in the mirror every night before bed even though she wanted to read 'Good Night Moon' as a little girl, let her be and feel average.  They accept the fact that it's hard to get A's in high school, and almost impossible to graduate college in 4 years.  After finally getting her degree at twenty-four, in this economy there is no job worthy of her degree so she's living at home finding herself.
This scenario plays out in varying degrees in a lot of areas, but let me circle back to what I know well, youth baseball. There is a fear that if a kid is not the best in Tball, he will never make the high school team.  If they don't make that team, they cannot ever achieve 'their' dream of making the majors.  So parents push.  They push to year-round baseball.  They push and pay for hitting lessons for 7 year-olds.  They push and become "team hoppers" so their kid can play short and bat 3rd, because if their 9 year-old is an outfielder they'll never make it.  They push the child away from a game that I love, and that angers me.  
Steve Springer nails it in the video linked below.  "Kid’s are quitting…because they’re playing with tension anxiety and pressure instead of calmness, toughness, and focus created by a little bit of funness."
I know funness isn't a word BUT IT SHOULD BE, and to the parents of 'Mini Thor' if you want your kid to grow up like the real thing, he'll need to struggle though certain aspects of high school (he didn't make varsity until his junior year), sign with Dallas Baptist as a hitter (according to Syndergaard's Wiki page the only offer he received), but have him come into his OWN as a senior after gaining nearly 15 MPH on his fastball.  

I hear some grumbling as you read this.  "You played baseball for a living. Don't lie to us and say you weren't pushed.  Your brother, Jonny, is an accomplished singer, surely he was pushed." 

I will never tell you we were not pushed.  I will tell you that we were pushed hard!  We just were not pushed in the ways parents are pushing kids today.  

Jonny wrote a couple of songs in high school, but didn't record a thing until he was 19 years-old.  He gave up his baseball scholarship he had at Florida State, took some friends to Texas over Christmas break his freshman year, and recorded an independent CD.  He spent the next four years of his life playing any show he could to help pay for college.  He was not on a parental 'full ride.'  Jonny had options, he could work at the Gap, he could cut lawns, or he could grind it out as a struggling musician/college student. What he could not do was join a Fraternity on my parents money or spend 7 years getting a 4 year degree.

For more of his story here's a great interview with CBN

My story is the same but different.  I told my dad and my high school baseball coach I wanted to play college baseball when I was 16.  With that statement I was met with a deal from my dad.  I could forgo the summer construction job I had done the previous summer as long as I spent those hours working toward playing baseball.  I had options.  I could lift weights, hit baseball, long toss and run, or I could go back to cleaning PortaPotties or find another summer job.  What I could not do was hang out with my friends doing nothing. 

You see we were pushed the same way an eaglet is pushed when it's time to leave the nest.  It's really amazing the way things in nature get it.  The mother eagle will literally make it uncomfortable to stay.  She will take out all the soft feathers she spent weeks assembling to allow the sticks to poke her now able children out on their own. Those same soft feathers were very carefully placed to make the nest as soft and safe as possible for her helpless eggs and babies.  When it is time for a mother to protect she does with all her might, but when it is time to challenge her offspring, she meets that task head on too.

If I have not totally messed this blog up I think you'll get where I'm going.  Our 'nests' are way to prickly and hard right now for young kids.  We are expecting excellence when we should be rejoicing in messiness.  We are frustrating and exasperating our kids by expecting things from them God never designed them to do.  As a Christian father I have to repent of this.  I am specifically commanded not to do this:

Colossians 3:21  Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they 
                become discouraged. 

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring    
                them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the same way though, our 'nests' have become too soft and comfortable for our older kids.  I am asking us to stop demanding perfection from our young kids, but I am challenging us to call our older children to greatness.  I do not mean fame or riches!  I am  looking for character, passion, and work ethic. 

Coach Carpenter, the baseball coach I mentioned earlier, once put it this way to me, "MattE, if you pick up trash, do it better than anyone else.  When you're working out alone remember that you're not alone.  Finally, if you want to achieve anything, ask yourself every night before bed if you did everything you can to achieve that goal, and if the answer is no, get up, and go do more."  This is when another Bible verse became real to me.

•  Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for     men

Let me wrap this up.  We are pushing our young kids (for the sake of argument let's call 'kids' anyone who is too young to drive) too hard.  We are expecting adult like performance from them.  We are frustrating them by asking them handle things they were not designed to handle.

We are coddling our young adults too much.  Society is accepting way too much childlike behavior from them.  We are allowing them to behave in a manner that they were never designed to behave.

This is Bassackwards and I'd love your help stopping it!  If you think I'm sounding preachy though, please remember how this blog started.  I cannot possibly preach right now, I'm hoarse from yelling at 5 year-olds!