Monday, March 23, 2009

Self Control and Sportsmanship

I talk a lot on here about Jock, and his successes and trials in the sports he plays. But my poor Bug doesn't seem to get much equal billing, does he?

Tonight his team had a scrimmage. Double bonus tonight, as Coach is actually the manager of the team. I'm actually a big believer in scrimmages, no matter the sport. They give you real game situations, without really counting. Scrimmages are a fantastic way for managers and coaches to see how their teams can work together, and where they might fall apart when it matters. Scrimmages also tell you if your players have been listening at all during practice. They are a phenomenal coaching tool.

They are also a source of stress for a player who leans towards perfectionism, and who cracks at the first sign of an off day. For a player who has a mood disorder, scrimmages mean just as much as a regular season game. Let me remind you that I have just such a player.

That's not all he is, though. He is also an incredible ball player. This boy of mine, at ten years old, can pitch a fast ball so fast, so hard and so focused that it literally knocks the catcher back if he's not planted well. The thwack sound it makes as it hits the glove is awesome.

Tonight's scrimmage, though, was a little rough on him; as I suspected it would be. Nothing too major, but enough that he was crying in the dugout a couple of times. There was an umpire at the scrimmage tonight, and he's a new ump. We have one younger division that is mainly a slower paced, instructional division--while remaining real baseball, with all the same rules--that we also use younger umpires for. These umpires are generally 13-16 years old, and are just learning to umpire. This one wanted some practice before games started next week, and asked if he could ump our scrimmage. Sure, why not? That would give the boys some practice with an umpire as well. And really, this kid did a great job. He didn't really make any controversial calls, but there were a couple of calls that an older, more experienced ump would have made differently. Not a huge deal to the parents or coaches, or even most of the players.

But to Bug, who often has a difficult time making allowances for things, this was not good. On one play in particular, it was a race to the 1st base bag between Bug and the ball he had hit that was now being thrown by the third baseman. The parents in the stands thought he beat the ball. Bug thought he beat the ball. The umpire? Called him out.

Looking into the dugout, I could see him sitting on the bench with angry tears running down his cheeks. His teammates were commiserating with him, telling him it had been a great hit, and a great run to the base. He was just so .... not happy with it. Normally, I truly believe that you have to let the athletes console themselves and each other. The dugout is no place for the mama. Trust me. But with Bug, there are times when Coach and I know we have to step in, to hopefully derail the meltdown before it happens. As Coach was out on the field with the team, it was up to me.

So I went down into the dugout, and explained how the umpire was new and was just learning how to do things right. I reminded Bug that everyone makes mistakes when they're learning, and that next time that happened the call might go the other way. Just as he, Bug, was always learning new ways to be a better player, this boy was learning new ways to be a better umpire. We needed to understand that, and move on. Umpires are human, much as we might think otherwise during a stressful game, and we just needed to accept that mistakes will be made. It really helps Bug to have some things explained in detail to him, and anytime he can calm himself down by looking at things differently--I'm all for.

I will point out, though, that had this been a real game? I would have just called one of the other coaches over to the corner where they could talk to me through the mesh, and told them how to talk to Bug and what to say. Again, I am fully aware that moms do not belong in the dugout.

After the game, when we were busy giving him all sorts of props for his mad pitching skillz, I made sure to comment on something else equally as important that I wanted Bug to know was noticed. Despite being upset at the calls the umpire was making; despite being frustrated with the way the scrimmage was going; Bug never lost his temper on the field. He was not disrespectful to the umpire, the coaches or his teammates. He had somehow managed to control himself and his reactions, and he did it on his own.

And that was better than anything else that happened tonight.


Grace said...

Wow...your son has achieved the poise that many adult athletes still haven't mastered. Kudos to him and you for always giving him support and encouragement.

I Am Boymom said...

Good for Bug for showing he can handle life's issues. Sometimes its hard to be flexible and go with the flow, it sounds like even though a few things upset him he managed to work through it. I know adults who can't do that, Bug!

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