There was a time in life about one-hundred years ago when I played youth baseball. In those days, the term “Daddy-Ball” didn’t exist—at least I never heard it used. Yes, dads actually coached teams their own children played on way back then, just as they do now. However, it seems things are a bit different today or maybe my childhood view of the world was blind compared to the way I see things as a grandfather. BTW – this article also applies to grandparents who are involved in youth sports!
In today’s world, the term Daddy-Ball tends to have a negative connotation. Why is this? Well, in some cases when a parent coaches the team their child plays on, they place their blood-kin in “star” positions whether or not the child’s skills justify such assignments. It’s hard for any parent not to do this when they tend to live their lives vicariously through their children. They want their precious ones vaulted into the bright lights of stardom. Their child bats at the top of the lineup, pitches, and/or plays shortstop—those highly coveted positions on the field. This situation also applies to any sport or activity. Sometimes the child actually deserves the “prime” position, but in many cases, they don’t. Hence, the downside of Daddy-Ball becomes evident by the buzz in the stands from parents of children who are on the outside looking in.
A downside of Daddy-Ball occurs when capable children don’t receive the playing opportunities the “chosen” ones do. They play the less-glamorous positions in youth sports or sit the bench; they don’t have the opportunities to develop their skills to be the best they can be. I’ve seen this scenario play out many times with my grandchildren in the past ten years. If you disagree, I invite you to visit a ballpark catering to youth sports and observe the action for yourself.
However, Daddy-Ball doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Thank goodness, it’s not. Many dads out there enjoy giving ALL kids the opportunity to shine. The following true story describes how my father handled Daddy-Ball long before the term existed.
My dad coached the baseball team I played on when I was ten-years old. However, he was always harder on me than he was the rest of my teammates—he didn’t cut me any slack. In fact, he was downright tough on me—the way it should be for kids playing today. Tough love is not easy for any parent to practice, but it is necessary sometimes. In fact, it’s actually a good thing for many reasons.
Putting my humble nature aside for a moment, I thought I was a decent player. I was a pitcher—that coveted position on youth baseball teams. Unfortunately, I allowed my “average” physical prowess to warp my mind before a game one night. It was my turn to be the starting pitcher, but I opened my big mouth and told Dad I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to pitch. However, that was not true—I felt fine and really did want to pitch. Yes, I had a lot of growing up to do. I was an immature kid who wanted to hear praises for my nonexistent superb-pitching skills—to hear that the team needed me to pitch in order for us to win the game. I was selfish, foolish even, and deserved what came my way.
What followed was the best thing that could have happened to me. After making my statement, my dad didn’t say a word to me—no begging, no praising, nothing! He announced the lineup for the game by calling out the batting order, citing the names and positions for the players. To the dismay of my selfish-little mind, he didn’t say my name. In fact, Dad had drawn a line through my name on the scorecard and replaced it with another boy. It was a boy who had never pitched before.
After the first inning, I questioned Dad why I was not pitching and he unsympathetically answered, “Son, we need our best pitcher on the mound tonight. You aren’t the man for the job because you feel bad. At least that’s what you told me, so I did as you asked. Your position is to sit on the bench and cheer for the team. Support the pitcher on his first outing. You ought to be able to that regardless of how bad you feel.”
I thought, “That didn’t go as planned. I should have kept my big mouth shut about feeling bad!”
Dad sat my wise-rear-end attitude on the bench—for the entire game! I didn’t play at all that night, but our team still won without me. The new pitcher did a wonderful job on the mound. I guess there’s nothing like having a little salt rubbed in an open wound to help amplify a life-lesson—a self-inflicted wound at that. Welcome to the real world Little Tommy—it’s tough out there!
I’m not sure what Dad would have said to me had the team lost that game, but I feel sure this story would have a slightly different conclusion and a few additional lessons-learned. I grew up that night and learned some valuable life-lessons that have served me well. Dad’s silent method of making me think hard about what I had done was a perfect example of good Daddy-Ball and parenting. He knew I didn’t feel bad, but he got his point across in a subtle yet effective manner. Here’s what I learned the hard way.
- Never say you feel bad when you don’t—life will pass you by in a flash.
- Suck it up and be a bulldog when things don’t go your way.
- Don’t be selfish—the world of “me-me” does not exist, nor should it.
- There is always someone waiting to fill your shoes—you are not the only fish in the sea, so always give your best.
- All kids on a team deserve an opportunity in the spotlight of prime positions.
- Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
- If you think you’re good/great at what you do, don’t seek praise; it will come your way if truly deserved.
- Be ready to serve in any “position” you’re called upon to do, and that includes sitting on the bench to give others a chance.
- You never know what you can do until you give it your best.
In retrospect, my dad helped me more that night than I thought at the time—he taught me about life in the real world. For that, I am truly blessed. So, if you are a parent-coach, don’t forget the other players on your team. They deserve a chance to learn and grow their skills too. They may actually be better than your blood-kin. If not, at least you gave them a chance to rise to the occasion, and you may have helped a future shining star take the first step to the Hall of Fame.
As a coach, parent, or grandparent, we should praise a child when he/she does well, teach them how to face adversity, and be there to help when they fall down. However, be careful not to praise children for mediocre performances for you may create a little monster if you do. Learning from one’s mistakes is a good teacher since we will not always succeed in everything we do.
1 Peter 5:6-7 (KJV)
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.
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