Monday, May 18, 2015

Play Ball! Part 1

I've always wanted my boys to play sports.  I watched my little brothers grow up playing soccer, baseball, basketball and football with my dad as their team coach most of the way.  I still have the trading cards of my little brothers in their first years of little league, little guys holding up little bats and looking more adorable than there are words for.  I could probably recite by heart my father's speeches on the benefits of team sports and I will admit that he convinced me long ago.

I can remember trying to engage Little Guy with ball play and how, from very early on, he struggled and quickly lost interest in trying.   I didn't know then what I know now - that simple things are often not simple at all for him.  I didn't know that it was extra difficult for him to plan and execute body movement or that he experiences double vision and has difficulty tracking moving objects.  With those barriers success with balls is pretty hard to get to.

Last season when I signed him up for Little League, I knew.  I knew it would be hard for Little Guy and I knew it was likely to not be a successful run.  My dreams aside, I probably wouldn't have even tried but for one very important reason -- Big Boy.   Big Boy who is smart and funny and typically developing and enjoys playing ball.  Big Boy I knew could be successful at Little League and I didn't want to deny him his chance at it.  And Big Boy was not going to want to do it unless his big brother was doing it, too.

So with great trepidation and some hope I signed them both up for T-ball and it was...just fine.  At that level the kids are little and they're all learning.  Some kids have more skills than others but there are plenty of tikes out there who aren't great.  Little Guy couldn't throw or catch well but the same could be said for other teammates.  The coaches were supportive and everything was good humored.  Little Guy was challenged in many ways and if he didn't bubble over with excitement to be playing baseball he did enjoy many parts of it and had some great experiences.

This year has been different.  

By the time the season even started he'd taken a few balls to the face in the process of trying to teach him to catch.  This year before the season even started there was frustration.  A year of development and some practice later he has progressed by bits while Big Boy's progress is more significant.  Little Guy has not yet put together the larger implications of a kid 2.5 years younger out-performing him.  He just knows that he works hard and his output is not so great.  Big Boy works hard and gets a much better result.

And it's not just Big Boy.  This year almost all the kids play better.  If Little Guy hasn't noticed that I know who has -- all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that make up the crowd of spectators at each game.  There is more of a competitive edge to some of the peanut gallery this year.  They are not flagrantly mean but they get frustrated and say careless things that make me want to slash their tires from time to time.  They haven't crossed the line yet but every once in a while they go stand by it.

Still, if you set the difficulty of practice aside, both boys enjoy actually playing the game.  I ask myself often if I'm doing the right thing pushing Little Guy at something that is so difficult for him. Then I see his grin as he does a little victory dance on first base after hitting the ball.  I see him sitting on a bench playing rock paper scissors with a teammate.  And I remember that many things worth having don't come easy.

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