Getting Kids Ready for a New Soccer Season

Get Kids Ready for Soccer

More excitement in the sports section of my family. A new season means a new sport for The Boy. It’s been football for the past two autumns. This time, the child has decided to change gears and play youth soccer. We’re getting kids ready for a new soccer season.

I was never much for soccer, although I have learned to appreciate it in recent years. My children playing also gives it an added appeal. This is my son’s first soccer season. I tried to give him a little insight to the game. He wasn’t interested.

It’s a season full of “firsts” for The Boy this time. This is his first time playing soccer. He’s not playing with any of his friends. They’re either playing football or not playing a sport at all. I told him this could be a chance for him to make new friends. He wasn’t so sure when he heard that.

There are some adjustments on The Boy’s part. After two football seasons, he’s moved to soccer, and he can’t use his hands. I’ve constantly reminded him of this since it’s pretty much the only thing I know about soccer; That and the games are usually low-scoring.

The first order of business for me was to read the coach’s email and see what is needed for games and practices. I knew my son needed a water bottle. We’d figure out the rest at the first practice.

Soccer Practice

We were at the first practice of the season. The Boy needed cleats, and believe me, we looked everywhere when it came to finding cleats. The coach said not to worry about it since it was only the first practice of the season.

Soccer practice

I had a couple of days before the game to find the cleats. It became a mission for me and The Boy. We needed to get the cleats anyway, but going to one store, then two stores, then five stores and coming up empty-handed added an element of adventure and challenge that was not easy for us.

I think one problem was The Boy’s size. He was at the top of Boys’ sizes and the bottom of Youth’s. Being in between made it a little difficult to find something to fit him. We did find a pair of cleats from time to time, but what we found was too small for him. He insisted he could squeeze his feet in there because it was only a couple of hours.

“No, Joe Jackson,” I said to him. “We’ll find shoes that will fit you, and you don’t need to play in pain.”

He insisted he could squeeze his feet in there because it was only a couple of hours. I said, “No, Joe Jackson. We’ll find you shoes that will fit you, and you don’t need to play in pain.”

He wasn’t happy with my decision, but he went along with it.

Finding a Store for Soccer Cleats

In the middle of our cleat-seeking adventures, I learn of a store that’s not too far away from us. I don’t mind taking the drive, especially with one of my children. We get to the store. It’s a soccer store. Dedicated to soccer and nothing else. Only soccer.

The store isn’t too far away, but it is far enough that we won’t be able to make it there in time for cleats to wear for the first game of the season. I thought it would only be one practice without cleats, now it looks like it will only be one practice and one game (hopefully).

Driving to the First Soccer Game of the Season Together

The season-opener is on the road. We need to be in the car and on our way in time for a quick practice/refresher session before the first game of the season.

Wife isn’t home. She needs to take care of some things that day, but she will be making every attempt to be at the game. It’s late in the day, so she feels good about making it.

Despite our best attempts to get everything done and out of the way before the game, we are behind schedule. I send a message to the coach and inform him we are on our way but will not be on time for the pre-game drills.

While driving, I keep an eye on my phone in case there’s anything from the coach on our way. Sure enough there is something from the coach.

There is a notification on my phone. I need to pull over. After pulling over, I look at my phone. I rub my eyes and look at the phone again. Apparently, the game was never scheduled for Saturday as the schedule erroneously said. It’s scheduled for Sunday. On one hand, the schedule change cuts into beers and football scheduled for Sunday. On the other hand, it means we won’t be late, after all.

Finding the Right Pair of Soccer Cleats

I contact wife and tell her about the actual schedule. We get back home and hit the reset button. There is suddenly some extra time to find the cleats and take care of things around the house.

We get back into the car later that afternoon. We make it to the store. It is an enormous building dedicated to soccer and only soccer. We look at the cleats on the wall. There is a pair that look like it could pass muster. We ask to see the cleats in The Boy’s size.

The nice person working at the store retreats to the storeroom and returns with a box. The Boy tries them on. The cleats are a little big, but he likes the look and the extra room for his feet. He’ll grow as the season goes along, so that extra space will come in handy.

Soccer cleats for The Boy.

Getting Dad and Kids Ready for the Soccer Game

The Boy is getting ready for his game, and I need to do the same as a fan.

For me, watching my son’s games means I need to wear attire that matches my son’s team. I’m always looking for shirts that match the uniforms. It’s my own special way of supporting the team.

Decked out for the game.

This is soccer, though, and soccer fans are always decked out in team jerseys, scarfs, and face paint. I was able to find a shirt that matched The Boy’s, and Wife has a scarf that has our town colors. We arrive at the game. I’m in the team colors. We take our seats. I look around, and I’m disappointed there is no concession stand selling snacks. I’m hungry.

Wife and I take in the game. It’s a tough one, as they lose, 2-1. There was some excitement, and The Boy made some great plays out there. I’m looking forward to his next game. He’ll have a practice before that, and that will give the team a chance to work on their skills before that. On both days, I’ll be looking forward to watching my son.

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The Exciting End of The Boy’s Baseball Season

The weather has warmed up considerably since the first pitch of the baseball season was thrown back in April. The Boy and his teammates have faced down opponents two days a week since the start of the season.

It has been a season of multiple surprises. Some have been pleasant; others have been not so pleasant. It all depends on who you ask. The Boy was very disappointed with one development of the 2022 baseball season. When he was told (by me) that the season was going to end two weeks ago, no one realized it was the end of the regular season. There’s still the playoffs.

This slight miscommunication was a major issue with The Boy, who was told he wouldn’t have to (that’s right, “have to”) play baseball after the final out of the season was recorded on that pleasant evening that included chicken fingers and french fries from the concession stand.

Instead, The Boy was upset, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the regular season was a way to determine seeds for the playoffs. All of the teams at this level make the playoffs, and my son’s team, the second-place team in the league, was the number-2 seed in the tournament. The Boy understood the final game of the season to be the FINAL game. There was not talk of playoffs beyond that.

This past week brought us to those playoffs. This team has had good hitting all season. Fielding is a little suspect. Pitching? Well, they’re not far-removed from T-ball, so I’ll let you figure that out.

Taking the field for Game 1.

The Playoffs

Game one was an absolute anomaly for our diamond defenders. Our usually competitive team got spanked, making game two a critical “must-win” in the best-of-3 series.

Game 2 went back and forth. The Boy’s team went ahead, fell behind, and ultimately came up short, eliminating them and saddening many baseball bairns, just not the boy.

Postgame Words and Celebration

After the game, the manager gave players and parents alike a speech thanking everyone for their dedication to the team and the season. He invited everyone, players and families out for pizza immediately following the game.

The Boy and I graciously accepted his generous offer. We met coaches, children, and families at the restaurant. Boys were frantically moving from one table to another. I stayed at one table most of the night eating pizza and keeping an eye on the television carrying yet another baseball game while conversing with other parents.

The Boy and I then went home for the evening. We thanked the manager for his help this year and his generosity that night. While we drove home, The Boy told me how glad he was to have played baseball this year and even hinted that he MIGHT want to play next year. This, of course, did my heart good. We drove home with another season in our rearview mirror.

Lessons Learned

It’s tough when your kid doesn’t make it to the next round of playoffs. I am glad to have been able to watch my youngest son play baseball again. It wasn’t from the bench of the dugout where I can impart knowledge and savvy to the youngsters. Still, it was nice to be able to eat popcorn and Cracker Jacks and talk to other adults without worrying about eight or nine kids fighting over who’s playing first base or what the batting order is.

This year, I just got to watch baseball and talk to him about the game after. Of course, I had a little advice to give after the game and of course he was in no mind to hear what I have to say. In the meantime, I have 10 long months of nurturing that small ember of interest in baseball and make sure it doesn’t die out before sign-ups for the ’23 season start. A special thank you to Coaches Mike and John for their work and patience this year. Thank you for teaching everyone to be brave, play brave no matter what the score or situation was.

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What Happens when Coaching Kids in Flag Football

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Alas, nothing lasts forever. Seasons change. We had a nice extended summer in these parts, but now it seems like things are returning to normal. November is bringing colder temperatures. I’ve had to scrape my windshield before taking The Oppressed and The Boy to school.

There are other seasons, of course. Sports seasons. As you may already know, are a part of our family’s schedule and routine. If I’m lucky, I will coach a team. This gives me a chance to spend some more time with my children and try to teach them something and help them out.

Coaching the Kids

This season gave me another chance to be on the field with The Boy and a few other children. I was an assistant coach for the flag football season. There was a lot of raw talent on our team. We had kids who wanted to play, kids who wanted the ball. We had kids who didn’t understand there were five players on the field and just one ball to go around.

A football on the ground during a sunny day.
Another flag
football season

In addition to our needing to explain to the gridiron greats how to share the football, we also needed to temper some of the players’ enthusiasm. For instance, if we were about to throw the ball, some of our own players would shout, “Pass!” as the play started. We loved the enthusiasm, but the head coach and I thought it would be a good idea to “surprise” the other team when it came to what play we were going to run.

Of course, there was no evidence to support this, but don’t question a kid’s gut.

Luckily, we were able to convince players to surprise our opponents. Other challenges for us included kids who wanted the ball. Again, rules called for only one ball per team and there were five players on the field. The head coach did a great job of spreading the ball around. Some players were more patient than others. While some waited their turn, other players wanted to know how much longer they had to wait before their turn to run or pass the ball. Some players were certain that others were getting more turns than they were. Of course, there was no evidence to support this, but don’t question a kid’s gut.

Dealing with the Injuries

Practice was fun. We had to remind some kids we were playing flag football and not tackle football. Some kids thought it was fun and cool to maybe tackle or physically block (totally against the rules). This was fun until they were the ones getting tackled or blocked, then it was mean, and people were breaking the rules.

Sometimes there was a little confusion when a play was being run. Sometimes kids would run into each other, or trip over someone or something. Again, some were convinced people were trying to sabotage them. Balls were thrown or spiked.

I jump in with my coaching experience and expertise and ask what’s wrong. Does it hurt and have a temperature? Kids are absolutely belligerent as they fill me in on the unwarranted attack on their person. It’s wrong and people should be punished. Our innocent victims demand satisfaction. I ask if we should hand out an equally harsh punishment for the accident that occurred when the victim ran into someone on the previous play. They try to hid their smile as they are reminded of what happened earlier, but they can’t and they go back to the huddle.

Everyone has a Job, Kids and Coaches

We try to make sure everyone has a chance to play every position. One assistant coach spent the entire game tallying plays and making sure everyone got in and got ample rest. My job was to make sure those who were on the sidelines were ready to play when their turn came. Some were ready. Sometimes someone was at the concession stand or going to their parents for a drink. The water bottles were on the sidelines, but they were convinced the parents had better drinks.

It was a good season overall for everyone. The players hopefully learned a few things about playing as a team. The coaches hopefully learned something about patience and working with kids. The Boy and I spent some time together driving to and from practices and games. He got a chance to see his friends again outside of school. I got to talk to some more adults.

Everyone played and everyone had fun. My head coach gave a gift card to me and the other assistant at the end of the season, so some retail therapy to Dick’s Sporting Goods will be in order very soon. We all get to recover in time for a new season and new challenges.

Kids adjusting their uniforms and getting ready for a flag football game.
Ready for action.

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Reflections of Another Baseball Season

“The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings…”

Seasons inevitably change. Things come and go. That’s life. That’s the way it is. The end of one thing and the beginning of another gives us the chance to reflect on what was and what may follow.

The weather continues to get warmer and the school year is winding down. Both are reasons to be happy excited if you are a young man (or young lady). Unfortunately, we recently observed an ending: The end of the baseball season.

Baseballs laying on the grass.

At the level I coached this year, the focus was more on fun and learning than scores, winners, and losers. Therefore, at the end of our 2021 season, I look at the improvements each player made. The Boys of Spring came to me in the cool, damp days of March and April. I did what I could to fix holes in their individual swings and flaws in their fielding and throwing. I kept it as simple and basic as I could. I reminded them to keep their glove down on the ground. I told them to relax at the plate and don’t swing for the fences. Improvements were made during the season and I’m glad to have played a small part during the journey.

Children and adults on the baseball field.
Another deep conversation before resuming the game.

There were also the deep, stimulating conversations we had during the game. These usually consisted of, “I’m tired.” “Can we go home?” “I need water.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” We had eight players on our squad this year. Five or six of them wanted to play first base at once. A simple bunt down the third base line would have meant a sure double. Luckily our opposition wasn’t so baseball-savvy.

One child spent the whole morning asking when we’d be done. I told him we had two more innings. He responded, “NO!” I apologized and quickly amended it to three. Apparently, this was not the answer he was looking for either. Another was excited to learn we share the same birthday month. We are now officially “Birthday Twins”.

The complaint department handled grievances regarding the lineup. I always tried to make sure the same person didn’t hit first or last every time. Occasionally, one or two of the players would try to change the lineup. By “change”, I mean write his name down and no one else’s. Other methods of altering the lineup included running to the dugout and being the first to get his helmet and bat thereby superseding the written lineup. I called Rob Manfred to make sure this was indeed a rule. I’m still waiting for confirmation.

There were displays of strength such as boys seeing if they could throw the ball over the fence instead of at the intended target. There were boys running away from the ball. This was when I reminded them they had a glove to protect them. There were two runners on a base. I reminded them it was one at a time. The boys told me about school and Pokémon. I told them about Mel Ott and George Brett. I traded stories of school with the children and bourbon and scotch tips with my assistant coaches.

It was a season of fun and learning. We taught baseball and smoothed over bruised egos. I hope the children enjoyed themselves. Thanks to my assistants D and R for their help. Thank you to C, D, J, J, L, M, R, and W for their (unending) feedback on my coaching and showing me the ways I can improve upon myself.

And I think I inadvertently hit two or three batters. Sorry about that.

Players lined up at home plate after a game.
Waving good-bye to another baseball season.

Little League, Big Dreams

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger.

A baseball and baseball glove.

The sun is shining. The weather is getting warmer. Birds are singing. It means baseball season is arriving again. It also means a new crew of children to whom I will pass on my love and knowledge for and of the National Pastime.

It also means trying to nail down the names of six or seven new players, which usually means an afternoon of, “Hey!” since I need to get a message across to somebody fast. I might need to bring somebody’s attention to a ball thrown in their direction or wake somebody up who is not paying attention while they are on base and another baserunner is heading for that base. Who knows with this crew?

What I do know is this: There are some future managers on this team. I have a bunch of players who aren’t much for listening, but they love to remind the others where they need to be. They also like telling me who has already played first base and they haven’t hit yet.

Let’s start with my team on the field. The Boys of Summer take the field. Three of them are standing on first base. One might be catching. One or two might be somewhere else on the infield and ask if it’s alright where they are. My first order of the inning is to convince two of the boys on first that they need to play somewhere else. I usually tell them something like I can’t waste their arm at first base or I need someone with their speed somewhere else on the field. Something motivational that will convince them to move from the prized first base. This usually includes a promise that they can play first base later in the game.

That’s done. Players are in position. I look around to see my crew and make sure they’re ready. One is making a sand castle. Two more are practicing ninja dropkicks on the grass. My teams usually include different players doing the same things every year. I just guess who it’s going to be doing what.

Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Now we’re ready. Players in position. One is looking back at the concession stand. They smell something. Burgers. Chicken fingers. French fries. I remind the player they need to face forward and get ready in case the ball is hit to them. The ball is hit. The fielder fields it and the ball goes sailing over the first baseman’s head. I take this opportunity to remind everyone on the field (again) that the object of the game is to reach the first baseman’s glove, not to show how strong they are. I tell them it’s alright. There are no girls around. They don’t need to show off their strength and can save that for recess the next day.

Children playing baseball.

Sometimes there will be two or three players chatting with each other in the middle of the game. Something urgent and compelling, I’m sure. These are Kindergartners and first-graders so I’m sure what’s being discussed is Earth-shattering. I break up the roundtables and direct the children’s attention to the man at the plate. I don’t need another player threatening to quit because they weren’t paying attention when the ball was hit to them and they took one on the leg or the arm. Our time on the field mercifully comes to an end and it’s our turn to bat.

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst after 10 minutes on the field are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger. I am met with “Can I hit?” “Is it my turn?” “When can I bat?” This is when I am reminded by numerous people who didn’t get the chance to hit first in any inning last time.

I give the order. This isn’t an actual “game” so it’s a different order every inning in order to make sure the same person isn’t hitting first or last every time. I give the order and, throughout our turn to bat, remind my men who is hitting next and who is on deck. I’m at home plate, sometimes; making sure the feet are where they should be, hands are positioned right, elbow bent. My player is relaxed and ready. I check his feet. I remind him of the batters box (I draw one so they know where to stand) and tell him to stay there and wait for the ball. Level swing. This is what I tell them. Bats go everywhere. Players swing at angles Trigonometry Professors have never seen before. Some players want to stand behind the plate. They draw a box where the catcher normally plays and, since there’s a box there, it’s perfectly alright for them to be there. I explain that’s not the way it works and they need to stand in a Regulation batter’s box. Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Sometimes I pitch to the budding baseball battlers. These boys are still learning how to hit without a tee, so I am careful and cautious when it comes to pitching. Sometimes, however a pitch goes awry and I hit a batter. I hate that. Not as much as the one who gets hit, but I hate it. I run to the batter, make sure they’re alright and we don’t need to amputate. He’s alright and, after some prodding and convincing from the parents, returns to the box to finish his time at the plate.

He makes contact. Infielders pile upon each other for a chance to get the ball and throw the ball. They can finally do something. The batter runs. I remind him to run the other way. He changes course. I remind him to run without the bat. He flings the bat. Suddenly, I’m Pepper Martin diving out of the way in order to avoid the incoming bat. I’m in my forties and I still have my agility.

The day comes to an end. We line up at home plate, walk past the other team, and say, “Good game.” No handshakes because of the ‘Rona. I end our session with some words of wisdom. Something to inspire the troops. The Boy and I head home where he tells me about what I need to improve on.

Fun With Flag Football

The Boy has moved on from baseball to flag football. This new experience has paired him with different friends from school and the neighborhood. So far, he seems to enjoy it. Then again, he’s up for anything but baseball right now.

I offered my help to the coaches if they needed it. They accepted. There are over 10 kids on the team who need help lining up, knowing when to run and stop running. Conversations on the sidelines get so intense that the kids don’t hear their names being called on to the field or being told to get off the field. That’s where I come in. My main job is to shout, “On the field!” or, “Off the field!” Coaching baseball has prepared me for this.

Like every other sport, football offers its unique challenges. Strategy is paramount. It’s important you don’t tip your hand to the other team so we try to shush the kid who yells, “Don’t forget I’m getting the ball!”

There are other things we need to work on. Focus is one of those things. After the quarterback takes the snap, they will sometimes hand the ball off. If the running back doesn’t have their attention stolen by something else happening on the field (an airplane, someone who looked like a classmate, a fly), that’s a small victory.

We also need to remind the children that there are more receivers than balls. This will come up when someone doesn’t get the ball thrown to them. They were wide open. The defender couldn’t catch them. Why didn’t the quarterback see them and throw to them. Their upset but a little encouragement in the huddle while they demand a trade or a new quarterback usually calms them down and allows them to refocus on the task at hand.

It’s been an interesting season, so far and we’ve won more games than we’ve lost. That’s always good. We stretch before practices and games so kids don’t pull a muscle or sprain anything. Other teams are running sprints and doing pushups. We don’t get into that. It may change if we see Bill Belichick scouting our team for any future players but that doesn’t seem likely.

Practicing Patience

When you’re coaching sports, you try to teach the kids a thing or two that they will be able to take with them. You hope it will help them in life, not just with their play. Sometimes I learn something from the kids. Sometimes you’re just glad practice ended without breaking a bone or losing an eye.

I need to remind the children that this is flag football. There is no tackling. I will say this to the defense who want to re-enact a scene from a Marvel Universe movie. I will also say this to a receiver who is swearing up and down that the pass was meant for them instead of the person who was standing in the path of said pass. Some people will want the ball and are willing to knock down anybody and everybody to get the ball, even if the person being knocked down is the actual intended receiver.

Sometimes we will spend some time running a play. Most of the time we are breaking up a pig-pile that occurred at the end of the play, not that their tackling the actual ball carrier. They just like to jump on someone and try to wrestle. There are some Kung Fu moves involved. Always a great thing when kids are wearing cleats. What could possibly go wrong?

So we go to the pile of budding gridiron gods and Marvel wannabes. We separate the offense and defense and line them up for the next play. Sometimes we need to calm a player or two down. Sometimes the person who needs to be calmed down is the instigator who thought it was hilarious to tackle or jump on somebody. It’s always hilarious until they’re the person who gets pushed or touched. Then they stomp their feet, curse the name of every person who was in the general vicinity, and declare their need for a water break. No one understands what was going on, including the coaches. They’re all jerks. The player hates all of them.

We let this person storm off. They’ll be back before the next play is over. We’ve seen this before. It’s time to run another play. The ball carrier runs for a touchdown. The offense follows the ball carrier into the end zone for a celebratory tackle and pig-pile. The defense runs to the end zone to join in. Why not? They were supposed to catch that ball carrier in the first place, anyway.

Marvin the Foreman

Sometimes you see kids and you just know what they’re going to do when they grow up. Coaching youth sports gives me insight to plenty of kids. I watch some and I just think to myself what this one could do with a little molding. I see others, like the subject of this entry and think to myself, “Good luck, World.”

I have one player on my team this year who happens to be one of the kids in my neighborhood. So, I already have a feel for his personality and what he will bring to that proverbial “table”. I am also friends with his parents and I love relaying the nuggets this child utters to them from time to time. His dad tells me he’s going to be a foreman when he grows up. I can’t say I doubt that.

I’m going to call this child “Marvin” (Google “Marvin Miller” and you’ll understand why.) Marvin is a kid who makes sure you don’t forget about him. Even after you tell him where he’s playing or when he’s going to bat, He will ask you if it’s his turn yet, or why he can’t play over there. I’ll tell him it’s because there’s already someone over there. He throws his hands in the air and rolls his eyes. “Oh my God!” he exclaims. “Why can’t I just be over there?!” He mutters a few more things that I can’t quite understand because he is walking away and because I have other crises on the infield that require my attention.

Ready for work. A game? Not so much.

Marvin doesn’t miss much, especially when it comes to a break from the action. Immediately after it’s time to take the field, Marvin needs water. I remind Marvin he just had water and he should have had his water while he was on the bench, which, technically, he did have. He thinks for a second and says, “I have to go to the bathroom!'” I get his father’s attention and Marvin and Dad make their way to the bathroom (second time this evening.) Marvin returns and is unhappy to see his coveted position (whichever one he can’t get) has already been claimed by another player. Hands go up. Eye roll. The injustice. The humanity. Why? Why?!

Alex Cora never had it so hard.

Heart, Soul, and Slugger

I’m going to call this kid “Slugger”. Slugger is a boy who is excited to be at the field every time. He’s not necessarily interested in playing baseball but there is an infield full of dirt. We’ll get to that later.

The t-ball season, like other volunteering opportunities, has offered an abundant supply of memories and life-lessons. Every year, there is always one player in particular that will stand out in your mind forever. It’s not the clumsy swing. It’s not the lackadaisical “trot” to first base. It’s more the overall behavior and personality about that one kid who, through fate and chance, just happened to end up on your team.

I love baseball. I love telling stories. This year gave me both.

I’m going to call this kid “Slugger”. Slugger is a boy who is excited to be at the field every time. He’s not necessarily interested in playing baseball but there is an infield full of dirt. We’ll get to that later.

Slugger gets to the field and he is ready to talk. He likes to tell me where he’s going to go on vacation, where his family wanted to go originally before Corona palooza, and how his family came to that conclusion. I listen as intently as I can. There are other children coming up to me wanting to know the batting order. One of the players (The Union Guy) wants to know how long this is going to be. He needs to eat dinner and doesn’t really want to be at the field too long, or at all for that matter. I’ll tell you about him later.

Slugger is always asking me when he’s going to hit. “Is it my turn now? Is it my turn now? How about now?” I tell him not yet.

Slugger will finally get his chance to bat. I show him where to stand, where to put his feet. He’s standing next to me. I point to the line I drew for him. He looks at me. I remind him it’s his turn to hit. He steps up to the plate. God bless him. He hits a weak ground ball that makes it to the pitchers mound. He runs halfway down the line before he finally hears me say “The bat!” He flips the bat behind him. I dodge the missile. It’s a small bat. He’s a small kid but I don’t want to take any chances.

Slugger takes the field. I’m on the field with my players. I position them according to the hitter. There’s no set rules for where the players need to be. There is always three or four players wanting to play first base. The “pitcher” and shortstop draw their own bases so they can have one too. I’m constantly calling Slugger’s name. His attention is on his father, standing on the other side of the fence, a bird flying overhead, grass growing. Anything but the game at hand.

Slugger’s favorite activity is tracing in the dirt. He likes to practice writing his name. He’ll draw pictures. I’ve had to deflect a couple of ground balls that would have bruised his ankles. His latest feat was showing me how he could bury himself up to his ankles in the dirt. That’s great, Slugger. Here comes another ground ball.

When Slugger does get a ball, sometimes he’ll throw it. Sometimes he’ll roll it to the first baseman. Sometimes he’ll just run it over. He’s into Cardio… And it gives him a chance to talk to one of the teammates. There’s not enough of that on the bench.

Slugger likes to show me his facemask. He likes to tell me about the close calls he has before the game. Like the time he thought he lost his hat but then he remembered it was by his door with the rest of his stuff because he didn’t want to be late to the game. He was reminding himself about the game all day. Sometimes it’s his glove. Sometimes it’s his uniform. You never know will Slugger but he’ll fill you in.

He’s a gamer. He’s a kid who doesn’t quit. If you had nine Sluggers on your team, you wouldn’t have to worry about hustle or attitude.

Heading for the Homestretch

Another day of forced fun.

Our T-ball season draws to a close. I am proud of the improvements my team made over this brief and unique season. If anything, I hope these troopers will take at least one thing they learned this year and apply it to their game as they grow as people and baseball players.

There were plenty of teachable moments and growing pains this year. I needed to remind players that if they were on one side of the field, there is no need to run to the other side and chase the ball. This was especially important for the first baseman, who somehow thought they could catch and throw at the same time.

Speaking of first base, that position taught my team the importance of sharing. Everyone wanted to play first base and there were usually two or three people congregating and explaining why they needed to play first for that inning. The future union rep was always in the middle of the discussion and explained why everyone else was wrong.

Everyone got out and got some exercise, including me. I got my share of aerobics in by dodging wayward bats and balls coming in without warning. I was also running after the pack of children who needed to tackle each other so someone could throw the ball. Ah, yes. Throwing. How could I forget my little shotput thrower. Every ball hit to them was a chance to show off his arm. It was a good arm, I have to admit. I was constantly reminding Kid Kannon that the object was to throw the ball to first base and not see how many trees they could clear.

The Boy was on my team this year. He has joined The Oppressed in giving up hitting for life. He has no use for it. Hates it and would like to see baseball banned from the world forever.

Yes, it certainly has been a fun-filled year. No more chats with individual players about what they’re having for dinner that evening. No more rundowns of how their parents are at another field to watch a sibling play. No more close calls about how they couldn’t find their glove at home but they remembered they had it in their room and they ran to get it and still made it to the field. No more knowing glances from the other coaches. No more being reminded by my players of who and where there players are. I go back to dealing with five children and continue to show some semblance of organization and balance.