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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Politics Of Little League, or Why I Hate People

It is a good thing that I do not have to coach my children's sports teams. Really, it is. As much as I love my own children, I seem to have a strong dislike for many of those belonging to other people. And an equally strong dislike of their parents, whose fault it really is that I don't like their kids.

I am getting a bit worried, however. You know how in many marriages there is the person that everyone likes and then they look at the spouse and wonder why they are with that person. Well, I am that person. In my marriage, Rob has always been the nice one.

But now, with coaching this team, he is coming into frequent contact with townsfolk. He is being forced to interact with people on a regular basis. He is beginning to crack under the pressure.

What do you say to a parent who can't find their kid's baseball uniform and has him come to play the game in some ridiculous outfit?

Or to the kid whose dog has chewed through his baseball hat for the second time?

Or the kids who don't wear cleats?

Or the parents who have never shown up to a practice or a game, never.

What about the fact that not a single father of the 14 boys on the team has EVER shown up, EVER.

Or what about the parent who will call and say my son isn't coming to the game today because it's such a nice day we are going for a hike/bike/kayaking/just don't feel like coming?

I know what I would say. The crux of my remarks would be personal responsibility and commitment and how, as parents, it is our responsibility to both teach and model them.

The season lasts for 8 weeks. Eight measly weeks, of which there is one left. Surely you can defer your bike ride for a day or a week even. Or have we just become that much of an instant gratification society?

The night before last there was a game. The forecast was calling for rain and possible thunderstorms. The game had not been cancelled, because they usually wait until it actually rains or looks like rain to do that, imagine that. I had a kid on the team call the house, while it was still bright and sunny out, to tell me that he wasn't coming to the game. His mom told him he couldn't go.

Damn, because Rob was going to have the kids all stand out in the middle of the field with their metal bats held over their heads while a thunder and lightening storm raged on. I had to bite my tongue.

I begged Rob last night, please do not make me be the nice one. I just can't handle it.


Blogger Sylvana said...

UG! How does he do it? Seriously, if I were coaching that team, someone would be dead by now.

11:23 AM  
Blogger angie said...

In our marriage, my husband is also the "nice one". Just because I can cop an attitude in public doesn't mean I hate you (the general "you", not "you" in particular), it just means I think you have issues! My husband, on the other hand, will only tell you his honest opinion if you ask for it. I give it out for free!

Anyway, you're right, in any marriage, there's a "nice" one and then there's the Other One.

11:37 AM  
Blogger impromptu-mom said...

I have to agree, when I don't like someone's children, it's usually the parents' fault. I see this kind of behavior in adults all of the time. "I don't care if I made a commitment to the team/commitee/group. I don't want to/I don't feel like it/nobody else does either." Then they wonder why today's kids are "so lazy and troubled". People need to model good behavior for their children.

Hang in there Chris! If you are forced to be the nice one, you could always become a hermit! lol

11:42 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

I just dealt with this yesterday- for my son's soccer team, of which I am the coach. Forecast was thunderstorms and tornado warnings but the sky was clear and sunny. I called all the parents to tell them we were still going to play as long as the skies were good. I had three parents (out of 6) refuse to bring their kid.
As it turns out, the night was beautiful, the game was fun and I was so glad I didn't cancel. Those kids just missed out because it "might" have rained. So sad.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh my God, I'm one of them! C, L and E play in sneakers and jeans and I just make them ride their bikes to the games and practices. But that's how it's done here, really, I think only one kid on the Little League team has cleats. Could this be a regional thing??

1:17 PM  
Blogger Lenise said...

I think it has something to do with a general decline in standards people hold themselves to, which may or may not be related to the increasing lack of respect for authority. Everybody wants to be his/her own boss, regardless of what "the boss" agreed to a year, a month, or a day ago. Of course, if my authorities modeled that kind of behavior, I probably wouldn't have much regard for authority either!

BTW, I'm specifically talking about people backing out on commitments; I'm not qualified to comment on Little League etiquette!

1:57 PM  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

I don't have kids, so no immediate experience or little league experience, but I have seen it plenty of times in other situations. I have no patience for people who don't take commitments seriously.

Btw, Chris, as your new best friend, I think you look so pretty today. And of course you are nice : )

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is a coach and we have had a hellish year this year.

I have posted various stories concerning a couple of kids on our team and their parents.
People amaze me.

Most of the boys on our team take it pretty seriously but there are a couple who don't.
I feel bad for the one kid who doesn't have cleats.
I think if he plays again next year I will find him some cleats secondhand somewhere.

I am proud to say that neither of my boys have ever missed a game. They have only missed one practice and that was due to a church retreat.
That's why we don't do 10 different activities...I know we couldn't make the commitment to them all.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Wayne said...

I hate the lack of participation with some fathers. Around here you happen to see more dads, on the playground even, but there still hasn't been enough of a gender paradigm shift. The last birthday party my daughter went to, the dads sort of huddled together in a corner and stayed away from the festivities, such as they were. Ugh. Of course, it doesn't help that the most of the images you see of fatherhood involve men who run from diapers and can't figure out how to pour cereal or run the dishwasher or do anything other than break appliances and drink bear.

Sorry, I'm sort of getting away from myself here. Cool blog! Hooray for not being the nice one!

2:23 PM  
Anonymous W said...

It's ok, Lisa, I'm one of them too!

My son wears jeans and sneakers. The coach said this year in "rookie" league the pants and cleats were optional. Of course, he does have a hat and shirt - that I wash twice a week.

And, his dad has only made one game. He is a common old construction worker and just started a new job. His boss doesn't see leaving early to go to a baseball game as a priority. I don't even like to tell dh when the games are because he feels bad enough missing out on the boys' lives as it is. If he thought people thought he was a bad dad, it would break his heart.

Also, I let my son miss his last game so he could go to his karate class which fell on the same night.

I wonder how many people think we suck because our kid wears jeans and sneakers, has an absentee dad and missed a game? I guess I really don't care! LOL! People judge others too often, I guess.

I suppose it would stink dealing with all those things if it was because the parents just didn't *care* enough to be involved.

3:44 PM  
Blogger joy madison said...

I am not the nice one either. Our kids haven't gotten into sports yet, and I'm pretty glad too, b/c I don't really like people either:) I hope it works out:)

5:27 PM  
Blogger Ash-bray Etty-hay said...

Most of this (except maybe the cleats?) can be applied to my Scouts, too. I'm torn (when faced with cancellations for reasons I think are lame) between thinking hey, isn't it great that they can be spontaneous, or not do something that doesn't work for their family today, and ... godfunnit, I just paid thirty nonrefundable dollars for their kid to participate in this thing they just blew off.

IME a lot of men are just phobic about going to kid things -- maybe they're unsure of what they're supposed to do there, I dunno. But it's a self-perpetuating thing; if one guy ventures out and sees there are no other guys there, he might just flee in terror.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Lisa and W,

*All* the other teams that we play against have full uniforms and wear them. They look like little pros.

The kids on our team are supplied with the full uniform, minus the cleats. They chose not to wear them and will come and say my mom said it isn't a big deal. This is an affluent town and these kids parents can well afford to buy them some damn cleats.

As for the fathers, the games are at 5:30 or 6:00 at night, as well as Saturdays. My husband leaves work at 3:30 because he works 1.5 hours away from our house. I realize that all fathers cannot come to all of the games, but you would think that they could make some of them... one of them.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Silly Old Bear said...

I've seen some of this in little league, basketball, and soccer. I was soccer coach for my son's team (7 year olds) and share your frustration.

We are lucky wiht the weather, for the most part, I guess.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Either we would totally get along in the real world, or we'd both look at eachother's kids and say "I don't think so."

I so enjoy reading your posts. You're quite the virtuoso blogger, in my opinion. The best thing is that once I've read your blog, I no longer feel the urge to write mine. I walk away from my computer saying, "There. She's already said what needed to be said, and now it's out there!"

You are sooo right about all those sport team issues. I've coached gymnastics and soccer and baseball, so I've seen it all. I can only suggest that you use this year as a learning experience for next year. Write these things down, and at the beginning of next season, you hand out a page of "rules/regulations/expectations". (e.g. If you lose/destroy your cap, a new one will cost $x.00) It doesn't stop the problems, but lessens their frequency.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Angi said...

We have never coached, thankfully, just for those reasons. My two oldest are baseball fanatics, so we have played for many years now, almost year round. But my oldest, he's 15, refuses to wear cleats. He insists he can't run as well with them on. In fact, the last time he wore them, he broke his foot while running the bases. lol.

But don't worry, the other parents on the team get just as aggrevated with those parents as you do. :)

9:01 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

I do think we have the same husband. I am the mean, outspoken one. He is the quiet, very nice, speaks only when spoken to one.

Move to our town. The kids show up, come hell or high water, to their practices and games. Both parents of each kid are in the stands at almost every game...usually a couple sets of grandparents too. Everyone is in uniform. Little League here is a BIG deal.

Most families have 4 or more kids. The only issue I have usually involves assvice about nursing my daughter, but I seem to have nipped that in the butt.

Oh, and we have snow cone stands and the grocery still delivers to your house. Doctors make house calls too.

It is Mayberry. It is almost like time stood still here and it is still 1920.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

If you don't mind, I'm going to end each of my posts' titles with "or Why I Hate People."

12:22 PM  
Blogger Chris said...


By all means, go right ahead.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

If they're supplying the whole outfit the kids ought to wear it. We get t-shirts. That's it. And all the sponsors are grain mills, seed companies or bars, lol. I agree about practices and games. If you make a commitment, you ought to be there.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Ooh, I'm hot and argumentative tonight. And I'm one of Them, too. Our kids always go to games in full uniform, and one parent attends 80% of their games, but with a large (and busy) family, sometimes missing an event isn't an option. We have had kids miss games to attend family gatherings such as birthday celebrations, 1st Communion, etc. Our relatives all live an hour away, so these events take a lot of time and are a priority for us.

As kids get older, their events occur later in the evening. There have been times when my dh is out of town that I have said "Either we find you a ride or you don't go," because the game is 1/2 hour drive away and ends at 9pm on a school night. No chance I'm taking all of my kids out that late at night. (And I almost always find them a ride).

And truthfully, I have allowed a kid who just really doesn't WANT to go to miss it, because I think: What will they remember when they grow up? Will they wish they'd attended a few more soccer games? Also sometimes in busy families where the working parent(s) aren't home that much, it's a rare opportunity to go on that walk or bike ride.

I think the problem is that youth sports today are much more time consuming than they used to be (at least where I live). Two practices and one game per week, games where travel to another city is required, tournaments, etc. for children under age 12 seems a bit much. But that's the way it's done where we live, so either you don't participate or you are forced to do it at that level. I want my kids to have time for music, religion, family, and to just hang out and waste time, read a good book, etc. but sports take up more time than any other activity.

Sorry for the rant! Just my humble opinion.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Well Paula, I obviously disagree with you.

Not wanting to go to practice or to a game doesn't cut it in my book. Either you are part of the team, or you are not. It isn't fair to the coach or the other players. What happens when several kids decide not to show up for a game and the game has to be cancelled for lack of players.

I can tell you that I am not a hardass parent. If one of my children were doing an activity and they were unhappy doing it, I would let them quit. But I would NOT let them decide on a daily basis whether or not they felt like participating that day.

1:15 AM  
Blogger thicket dweller said...

If one of my kids doesn't like the activity they're doing and want to quit, I also let them...AFTER the season/course/whatever is OVER. A lot of times kids say they want to quit because Nintendo just seems like a better option at the moment. I wrote about this on my blog at

Nw, my problem with baseball is just the opposite of yours, Chris.

We go to every game and every practice, on time/early. DH leaves work early in order to get to the games on time. I work in the concession stand, talk to the other parents, keep up communication with the coach and his wife. My kid always has all of his equipment and uniform, his name written on every article with a black Sharpie.

And every single game, he plays two innings, bats once or twice, and then sits on the bench for the entire rest of the game. Why? Because the coach and his kids are baseball fanatics. It's the ONLY thing they do. So coach's son plays every inning, every position, and is in the starting line up every single game. The assistant coaches' kids...same thing.

Now, I don't play baseball, and neither does my husband. That's why we put our son on the team, so he could get exercise and learn to play. But the coach, even though he's a great guy and is kind to the kids, is mostly concerned about winning. So his kid runs ragged and gets all the glory while my kid is stuck in left field. I have never complained, but in my heart I really feel like these kids who aren't such great players should get more playing time.

Once, we were even up by 10 runs. TEN RUNS! And we were about to mercy the other team, and still, all the strong players stayed in, when the weaker players could have been given a chance to play catcher, or even second base, or bat another time. IMO, baseball for nine-and-ten year olds shouldn't be so competetive that the kids who really want to play never get a shot.

When my husband coached soccer for six years, it was about the kids. Always. And every kids played. And guess what? Every kid got GOOD! And every kid came to practice because they WANTED to be there! And every parent knew what was expected because we gave them WRITTEN instructions. REPEATEDLY. Our current soccer coach tells a couple of the kids on the team that practice has been moved/cancelled/changed, and expects that to be good enough. Like ten- to thirteen-year-olds can even remember to put on their own underwear.

Ooh, I could go on about this, but I won't take any more space.

Yeah, some parents can be a pain, but I'm not one of them. Coaches can be just as much of a pain, if not more.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Actually you're probably right, Chris. It's not fair to the coach or other players. The answer is probably fewer activities and more commitment to them.

Just to clarify, I don't let my kids decide whether to go or not on a daily basis and I have made them go when they don't want to. (I'm a softie but I do believe in commitment). But if they are having a really bad day/week and are just crying and falling apart at the idea of going, then no, they don't have to go. And if that continues to happen, then they quit that activity at the end of that season/session.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous mary said...

Ouch--you're bringing back some bad memories. My son is 20 years old now, but when he was in elementary school he played soccer and I coached for one season.

Above all other aggravations, one thing made it a miserable experience for me. One of the kids on the team had serious behavioral problems. I have no idea what his diagnosis was. His parents wanted him completely "mainlined" or "mainstreamed" or whatever they call it, and they thought nothing of signing him up for soccer along with the other kids. Not that they came to help with the practices, mind you. They dumped him on me, and I had to supervise him along with more than a dozen other 8-year-old kids.

Nothing in my background or experience prepared me for dealing with such a child. I was a parent volunteer with no training in child psychology. No one should have expected this to be anything but a miserable experience for both the kid and myself. He infuriated me, and the angrier I got, the more he acted up. Every day I had to restrain myself from smacking him. Trying to watch and coach a dozen squirrely young kids and make it fun for all of them would have been hard enough, without this one kid.

So...I have a ton of sympathy for parents of a kid with any kind of problem, but it isn't fair to a parent volunteer (or to the other kids) to pretend they can just be dropped off at soccer practice every day and picked up an hour later.

Oh, and I was the "nice" one in our marriage.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

OK, you inspired me to write some thoughts on our sports experience. Take a look if you want to see why I reacted to your post.

And btw, I am NOT the nice one in my family! LOL

9:05 AM  
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