Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My ten year old son plays baseball on a travel team. My issue is not that I’ll be spending every single weekend at the ball field this summer, rather it’s that my son has very high expectations of himself and his performance on the field.
He gets upset when he gets out or misses a play or struggles on the mound. His reaction usually involves tears and occasionally tossing his helmet or glove when he comes back to the dugout. Despite our assurances that he’s doing well (which he is), he holds himself to an unreasonable standard – get a hit each at bat, make every fielding play, get all batters out without allowing a hit/run. We repeatedly emphasize how infrequently professional players actually get on base or get every batter out and how tough it is, but it doesn’t seem to register.
In general, he’s a sensitive kid (which most of the time I love), but I fear his reactions on the field are a bit too dramatic for the ballpark. I’m glad he cares about the game but I want him to have fun playing baseball. And secondly, I don’t want anyone to make fun of him for getting that upset. To be fair, there are other players on the team who get emotional as well but I feel my son get more upset more often.
Any suggestions for resetting his expectations or toning down the drama on the field? Or is this just par for the age?
Not a Perfect Game
Dear Imperfect Game,
As someone who has served what seems like a few life sentences on the bleachers myself watching many, many (many) baseball games, I can tell you that at this age, boys have a variety of reactions when things don’t go well on the field. Or at bat. Anything goes- from shrugging, to sulking, to throwing the bat and/or helmet, crouching on the field, and sometimes even the grandaddy of no-nos, arguing with the umpire. Usually getting ejected from a game cures kids of some of this behavior. And by “this age” I mean from 5 until 75. I hear that by 76, some guys mellow out.
But what we’re dealing with here is the fact that your son cares about the game. He doesn’t want to let himself or his team down. He wants to win. All of these are great things. Except he needs to realize that baseball is not about him anymore than it’s about any individual players on the team. It’s a team sport. His pitch doesn’t have to be perfect, his fielders are there to field. No matter how many millions are thrown at an MLB power hitter, no one gets on base every time.
Your son will understand this eventually, although accepting it is another story. Since you already had the conversation with him, consider speaking to the coach about on-field and in-dugout demeanor. Sometimes hearing what kind of behavior is expected of him by the coach can be very helpful in guiding his behavior.
Can he have a few pick up games with his friends? It’s easy to forget the toll that competition has on our kids and it’s a great reminder to be able to just play and have fun with the game.
I would not worry about other kids making fun of him for getting upset. If there’s one thing I learned from all the bench-sitting is that 1o year olds take baseball very seriously. So the chance that they’d accuse a teammate of over-reaction is slim, since they’re all moments away from tears and helmet flinging themselves. As are the MLB players.
Best of luck,