Leo wrapped up his 9U baseball season with the Kansas Hammers this weekend. Part of me is sad the season is over. I really enjoy watching him play and have fun with his teammates – they’re a great group of kids.
Another part of me is relieved. Not because of all the time freed up from games/tournaments/practices… I really didn’t mind that part. But I’m relieved it’s over because I could tell it was starting to wear on Leo.
Mentally, the season was difficult for all of us. While Leo had a solid year defensively in the outfield and has improved so much since fall ball, he never found his groove at the plate. After awhile, it really started to take a toll on his self-confidence and made him begin to feel like he wasn’t good enough to play at that level.
It was hard for me (and the rest of the family) to watch him get so down on himself. I remember what it feels like when you want so badly to get a hit, but you just can’t seem to do anything but strike out. I’ve been there. It stinks no matter your age or the level of ball you’re playing. (Just ask Alex Gordon about hitting slumps.)
Things got really bad the last 4-6 weeks of the season. Positive reinforcement and instruction from the coaching staff became sparse. Negativity/fear seemed to rule the dugout. Instead of being reminded of proper form or strategy for a play, you’d hear, “What are you doing!?!” or “What were you thinking!?!” or “Come on!”
I slowly watched the fun of baseball being drained from some of the players’ faces.
I’ve played a lot of competitive ball in my life… softball, volleyball, basketball. I’d absolutely be lying if I said I hadn’t experienced that type of coaching. But I wasn’t 9. I wasn’t in the early stages of learning the sport I was playing, trying to adjust to an entirely new level of rules and competition. I was in high school and college.
For the most part, I was able to tap into those overly negative, you-can’t-do-anything-good-enough-for-this-team moments and allow them (and the anger they generated inside of me) to fuel me. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact game when I stopped loving basketball. It was a night that felt a lot like this season of Leo’s, and it ruined basketball for me. I kept playing (because that’s what you do when you live in a small town), but it was never the same… not even remotely close.
I really hope this season didn’t ruin baseball for Leo. His love for the sport doesn’t seem like it’s been tainted yet, but he’s definitely not interested in re-living this season again any time soon. And neither am I.