Another Baseball Season in the Books

Last pic of the baseball season.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.

Being the Parent of a Youth Athlete: Am I Doing It Right?

I grew up playing sports (particularly softball), and as an adult, I’ve looked forward to the day my kids would play. My summers were spent at the ballfields – playing, practicing or tagging along to watch mom and dad play.

When we weren’t at the field, my sister, myself and various neighborhood kids were playing wiffle ball in the big yard that separated my parent’s house from Mindy’s parent’s house. We’d play for hours on end, or until a fight broke out (always a crapshoot as to which would happen first). During the summers Amy and I lived for softball and were devastated when bad weather would cause our games to be rescheduled.

Because my early years of ball were such a strong influence in my life, I’m hopeful they will be for my kids too. But I’m starting to realize being the parent of an athlete is hard.

Really hard.

It’s a constant balancing act, and all you really want is for them to have fun (and hopefully love the game).

I hope to be like my mom and dad were. Supportive and helpful – teach them to become better players and understand the game, but also knowing where to draw the line. Give suggestions for improvement, but don’t go overboard. Analyze and talk through the game after it’s over, but not to the point where they aren’t interested anymore.

I want to give my kids all of the encouragement in the world, but I’m not going to baby them. If they don’t put in the work, I won’t tolerate “it’s not fair” complaints. It’s just not my style, and it’s just not the way life works. If you’re not willing to practice pitching at home, I’m not going to let you be upset with anyone other than yourself if you don’t get the chance to pitch. Sorry, not sorry.

Sports are a great way to learn life lessons, all while having fun and making lifelong friends. I was fortunate to have great coaches and great opportunities to play. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my kids do too, for as long as they want to play. Even if it makes me an emotional mess in the stands.

Photo credits: Megan Mullins, a fellow Kansas Hammers parent.

Leo Lately – March 2018

In honor of Leo’s upcoming 9th birthday, I thought the timing was right for a post about Leo Lately. (With a quick search I realized I haven’t done this is 3 years. Yikes!) It’s really amazing how much this kid has grown and changed, particularly in the last year.

Growth – Leo’s nearly outgrown all boy’s sized clothing and shoes. I’m certain we’ll be doing our back-to-school shopping this summer in the Men’s section… just another sign my baby is growing up. I’m hopeful this will be the year he starts to care (at least a little) about what we buy. Although, given the big jump in cost for men’s clothing/shoes as compared to boys, maybe him being open to anything wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Photo credit: Mrs. Fawl's 3rd Grade Class Facebook Group

3rd Grade – This year Leo has been in Mrs. Fawl’s class at Overbrook Attendance Center. I honestly can’t tell you how impressed I have been with Mrs. Fawl’s teaching approach. Leo doesn’t have homework, nor does he bring home endless amounts of completed worksheets. I’m certain they do some of that stuff, but they spend their time on projects. He’s done many reports where he’s had to do research and then present what he’s learned; building projects where his team starts with sketches; uses a budget to purchase supplies; tracks their changes and keeps their expenses in-check all while designing and building roller coasters or disaster-proof houses or a house for the Three Little Pigs. Then after they’re done building, they have to see if their creations met the initial challenge. Mrs. Fawl has an amazing way of incorporating all of the subjects into the projects so the kids learn without even realizing they are learning. Honestly, it’s a lot like what I do at work everyday. I get a challenge, consider solutions, work within a budget, plan, execute and then measure my results to see how successful my solution was. I’m amazed that they’re doing this in third grade. What an awesome experience!

Reading – With Leo’s speech development issues, he’s always struggled a bit with reading. It feels like this past year he’s hit a turning point as he’s been able to catch back up to grade-level. I even think he’s starting to enjoy it. I don’t think his reading interest will probably ever be on par with his math, but I’m glad he’s not struggling as much as he had been.

Sports – Leo loves sports and being active in general. He played soccer with his friends at Overbrook last fall and basketball with them this winter. Now we’re starting to gear up for a summer full of baseball with his Hammers team. They’ll play league at Lake Shawnee and will travel a bit for four tournaments this summer. I’ve been a little concerned at the level of commitment his Hammers baseball team requires given his age, but I’m sensitive to it and constantly watching to make sure he’s having fun. His biggest challenge at this point is adapting to hitting kid-pitch. We’re working on improving his swing mechanics at home, so hopefully that will help. I know from my years of playing traveling softball that everything is a whole lot more fun when you’re confident at the plate.

Siblings – Leo’s a great big brother. For the most part, he takes his role of being the oldest and setting a good example seriously. (Sometimes a bit too seriously as he likes to step in for mom and dad every now and then.) He’s very connected to both Alex and Kate and always wants to play with them when he’s at my house.

Affectionate – Leo loves hugs and being physically close to someone (sitting by them or touching them). He’s still a little too young to know for sure, but I think Physical Touch is probably going to be one of his Love Languages. He certainly likes the action of showing/receiving affection from his family.

Responsibility – Probably the biggest change I’ve seen in Leo over the last year is the amount of responsibility he’s starting to show. He’s really started to figure out that he’s responsible for getting himself dressed and ready for school in the morning. He has to remember to take his allergy pill. He is capable and should get his own snacks/drinks. He needs to remember if he has something in his book bag that needs attention for the next day. I think the fact that he bounces back and forth between Brandon’s house and mine probably places an extra amount of need on this skill, but he’s starting to get it. And I’m grateful!

Gamer – Leo loves to play games. Board games, card games, any kind of game, he’s in. While he’s technically still a little young to be playing a lot of them, he jumps right in. I know a few of his current favorites are Cover Your Assets, Splendor, The Train Game, Golf, Old Hell and Nerts. I’m always impressed by how quickly Leo picks up on the rules and starts to follow along on the strategy. I feel bad for his friends as he gets older. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Leo Lately – September 2015

my_soon_to_be_first_graderIt’s been awhile since I’ve shared a Leo Lately post, but I’m going to try to make an effort to blog more and document more of the kid’s lives. They’re growing up so fast, I’m hoping this will help me remember all of those great moments since I’m not exactly a scrapbook mom.

  • First-grade! Leo started first grade last week in the Santa Fe Trails school district. He had a great experience in Kindergarten last year at Whitson Elementary in Topeka, but we decided it was the right time to move him to a smaller school system. He’s in the same grade as many of the boys he played baseball with this summer, so he’s been excited to see them again. It’s so hard to believe that my oldest baby has officially entered elementary school! Next thing I know, he’ll be graduating from high school.
  • Baseball crazy. Leo LOVED baseball this summer. (I’m sure the fact that he played on a good team and was one of the stronger players helped.) But he really loved all of it – his teammates, hitting, fielding, games, practice – you name it, he loved it. He spent most of the season at first base and did a solid job. He had consistent baseball_Leooffensive production and hit several home runs (although he was really hoping for a grand slam). The thing I was the most proud of though, was his attitude and the way he payed attention so well. The kid constantly wanted the ball. How can you not love that?
  • My little hunter. For Christmas Tony and I gave Leo his first legitimate bow. A few months later, we realized Leo is left-eye dominant, which makes shooting his right-handed bow difficult. Since that time we (mostly Tony) have been working to transition him to shooting the other direction. Since there’s not a lot of options for left-handed bows in his size, Tony’s adapted his existing bow so it will work. I can’t believe how much the shift has improved his shooting. Leo’s become pretty obsessed with wanting to go out and shoot at our deer target. And he’s constantly asking when he’ll actually get to go hunting and shoot a real deer.
  • Quite the fisherman. The other thing Leo’s been pretty obsessed with lately is going fishing. Tony’s taken him fishing at our lake several times, and he goes with his dad all the time. I’m not much of a fisher(wo)man, so it’s an activity he does with his dads. I have enjoyed seeing how excited he gets when he’s caught something. And I appreciate the patience and determination he’s shown to continue going out, even when he’s not had a bite for a trip for two.

 

A New Era Coming – Kindergarten

We’re less than a week away from Leo starting Kindergarten… man, where did time go? It’s flown by so fast (especially this past two years)! Now my baby is starting school.

Leo lost his first tooth!

I have mixed feelings about this big step in his life. I’m super excited for the opportunities school will present for him – new friends, lots of stuff to learn, and experiences that only a real school environment can provide. But I’m also sad abut the excellent daycare and friends that he will be leaving behind.

While Leo will still go to the same daycare for before- and after-school care, the rest of his current daycare-mates will not. They are going off to Kindergartens in other districts, and Leo will be heading to Whitson Elementary alone.

Up to this point, Leo’s been surrounded by many of the same faces day in and day out for as long as he can remember. Not only have the teachers at his daycare remained consistent, but most of the kids in his daycare class have been together since Leo started at the age of 1.

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These past few days it’s really hit Leo that he won’t be seeing his friends much anymore, and he’s been pretty sad about it. We talk about the new friends he’s going to make, but my heart breaks seeing him so sad.

I really hope the first few weeks of school go well and he’s able to find a few new buddies. Until that time, I’m planning on giving Leo some extra snuggles and trying to work in a few extra playdates with his daycare buddies.

Leo and Everett at Chuck E Cheese