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Kids and Sports: When your child is the underdog.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kids and Sports: When your child is the underdog.

My youngest just completed his first season of basketball. The season didn't go completely as expected, and I wish I could have done some things differently to make his first time playing more positive. He really enjoyed the first practices and the first few games, but then he started getting extremely upset before games, and refused to play.

The first time it happened I figured, no big deal. The second time? Kind of embarrassing, as he was crying because he was nervous, and we had several family members make the trip to watch him play. But, what are you gonna do? Make a child who is otherwise pretty laid back go out on the court crying? No thanks. We cheered our team on from the sidelines.

The third time (and last game of the season)? C'mon kid! What's the deal?

At this point? I'm the mom with the cry baby. To be honest, I really didn't care what other parents thought. I was more concerned with how to parent the situation, and I was really wondering why the heck he was acting like this. It just isn't like him. We've played two seasons of T-Ball with no problems, and he's usually not one to be nervous. He's pretty outgoing and free-spirited, so I was stumped.

I mean, we're talking about the kid who sports a hot a pink t-ball bat like it's nobody's business, and could care less what anyone thinks about it! He's my business shark who can walk into the bank like he owns the place and open his own account like I'm not even there!

The more I thought about, the more I realized this behavior was so out of character for him. The season had sort of been pretty hard on him for reasons that are so obvious now. I just wish they had been obvious then, and that I could have made it different.

Here were some of the factors:
1. The age split. The teams were split by 5/6 yrs. and 7/8 yrs. When we signed up for the season he was 6 going on 7. He would actually turn 7 before his first game. So, we had a decision to make. Should we put him on the 5/6 yr. old team or 7/8? We went with 7/8. 1. Because he didn't want to be with the "little kids", 2. I thought he'd learn faster with more experienced players., and 3. I thought it was the honest thing to do, as he was going to be 7 during all of the games. Turns out? It seems everyone else does the opposite. He ended up playing with a lot of kids that were WAY bigger, and I swear there was no way some of those kids were 8. So he ended up being the underdog. I think it was a little discouraging for him.

2. The team organization and coach placement.
I'm sure you all know the drill. Some coaches are out there b/c they missed their window on the NBA, and coaching at the Y helps them relive their dreams. Other coaches are just parents who got suckered into the position b/c Johnny really wants to play and they didn't have enough coaches. Thank God for these poor parents. They are saints. But, let's face it. They're not out there to teach your kid how to play. They may not even know how to play themselves. That was our coach. Although, I'm sure he knew how to play and he was so nice, he wasn't much help on the court for the kids. His direction was never clear and the kids remained clueless for most of the season, and for someone like my son, who had never played, this was frustrating. But, it's about having fun, right? And he was having fun. So, we were happy.

3. But, then? I found out that we had been playing on the wrong team for half the season. That's right. You heard me. After a mix up about practice times, that lead me to make a phone call to confirm the time, I was told we were actually supposed to be on a totally different team! Say what?! After hubs and I had been frustrated with the coaching, or lack thereof, and resolved to make the best of it, we weren't even supposed to be on this team? Really? And worse? We were supposed to be on the team of a coach we had already noticed was much more clear with his directions and teaching of the game. Come to find out, we were placed on the wrong team due to disorganization at the very first practice. Argh! But, it had already been half way through the season. We didn't think switching things up on my son would be wise, and we liked our coach. He was really nice, and the kids already got to know each other. It isn't the NBA after all, so we decided to go ahead and stay on the team we were on. We never even mentioned any of this mix up to my son. Because, he was having fun, and none of this really matters anyway. He's 7. We felt he was still getting at least an introduction to the sport, and we'd give it another try again. We continued to cheer him on and praise him for a job well done, even if he didn't know what direction to run and never even touched the ball. He seemed to be all smiles and all was good.

4. But then? He stopped having fun. He started getting really nervous before games to the point of crying, and began going to the bathroom like 400 3 or 4 times during games, and becoming visibly nervous on the court. It was always painfully obvious he never had any idea what the heck he was supposed to be doing out there, and I think he just started to not have fun.

At this point I began second guessing the whole season, and the decisions we had made along the way...
the age group we picked, the other team we were supposed to be on, and perhaps I should have talked to the coach about my frustrations. It was obvious other parents were aggravated about some of the same issues. But, I didn't. Prat of me felt like we were supposed to be out there to have fun and learn. And like I said, I think the coach was doing the best he could. I let the season play out until my baby boy couldn't handle it anymore. I feel awful that it started going south when maybe I could have avoided some of these issues for him had I been more proactive.

It was hard to see him getting upset, and part of me wanted to be tough and force him to play, but the other part of me couldn't blame him for being so frustrated. I honestly don't think he knew how to deal with the emotions he was having. Maybe a little embarrassed, confused on the court, smallest kid who never gets a basket...We ended up bench warming the last three games. Sigh...

I took the opportunity to teach the importance of being there for his team even if he didn't want to play, and we got up and went to every game. He watched every game and cheered his team mates on with a smile. Then at the last game he got down from the stands and walked with his team to shake the other teams' hands. He still felt very much a part of his team (even of the other kids didn't think so), he was just terrified of getting out there again.

Our season ended with a photo and a trophy. Yes, I still let him get his trophy. After all, he did participate and he cheered his team mates on until the end even after the embarrassment of being the kid that cries. That's worth a trophy!
I love him!
I really hope he'll give basketball another try! It's a super fun sport, and had things been a little different I think he would have really liked it. I won't lie, I was bummed. But, I just hope his memories aren't that terrible and he gives it another go next time.

On the way home from the last game he said, "I think I'll try soccer next time."

Bless his heart.

This post is linked up with Shell at Things I Can't Say. She lets us all pour our hearts out once a week.
Hey, and thanks for reading this one. I know it was long. You all are THE BEST!

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At February 22, 2012 at 8:50 AM , Blogger Janet Rose said...

I'm right there with you on our basketball season...especially the part where you wrote about the different kind of coaches. It happens in "Christian" organizations, too...we played Upward basketball at a local church. I think we would have been better off at our Y...

At February 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM , Blogger Karen Mortensen said...

What a darling boy you have. I am sorry things didn't go well for him. I am so glad you did what you did and didn't force him into anything.

At February 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM , Blogger MiMi said...

OH! We were gonna have our oldest do basketball but we knew it would be setting him up for failure because he's short and very NOT aggressive...not even enough to try to steal the ball during the game.
We decided we are going to wait until he's's all just so sad when you have an "underdog." :/

At February 22, 2012 at 3:44 PM , Blogger Di said...

I think you learned some great lessons that will help you with the next sport or season so its not a total loss. Do any of the churches by you have sports teams? I know they are usually much more laid back!

At February 22, 2012 at 5:22 PM , Blogger HiLLjO said...

Good mama'in. You know your boy and when something isn't right, it isn't.
I was the underdog at sports in general in school so I can understand how he felt kinda. That picture is adorable! Maybe like you said he'll try b-ball again! If not, there's lots of other sports!

At February 22, 2012 at 9:10 PM , Blogger The Preppy Girl in Pink said...

He did deserve a trophy. He stuck with his team even though he was clearly uncomfortable. I think that is very honorable and brave for someone his age. I also think it shows what wonderful parents you are.

At February 22, 2012 at 9:40 PM , Blogger Jenn and Casey said...

Good for him for sticking with it! Hopefully he gives it another try. :)

At February 22, 2012 at 9:43 PM , Blogger gin said...

Good for you for analyzing the situation so clearly. As an avid lover of basketball, I hope he will have a better experience next's such a fun sport to play. I have been poking around your blog and I have to say I just love what I see!

At February 22, 2012 at 11:07 PM , Blogger Kristen said...

Love the post. BTW - you are totally right... it was LONG. just kidding - you know I love you. btw... go visit all the blogs you commented on today - I'm like following you around the bloggesphere :)

You did the best you could. There are other sports, other seasons, and this is a learning curve for all of you. Don't worry - there is always therapy later - where you can pay loads of $$ to have him tell some quack about how you messed him up by placing him on the wrong team when he was 7.

Again- totally kidding. xo Kristen

At February 23, 2012 at 3:25 AM , Blogger Jen@ADropintheBucket said...

I have a few more years before I have to deal with the kiddos being in sports like that. And I am so thankful for posts like yours that can help me learn the best way to deal with situations like this when the time comes. Isn't it just so amazing how much we wear our hearts on our sleeves as mommas?

At February 23, 2012 at 5:44 AM , Blogger Ducky said...

I would be willing to bet that with the right coach next season he would love basketball! Poor little guy. How frustrating on all counts and at a pivitol time. You're an awesome supportive mom who made the best of the situation. I would like to think I'd would've been smart enough to make the same decisions you had once in the midst of things.

He looks fab in his photo!!

At February 23, 2012 at 6:46 AM , Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

How frustrating and discouraging! I could say much more, but I think it's best to leave it there!

At February 23, 2012 at 8:34 AM , Anonymous Maureen | Tatter Scoops said...

Aww bless his heart for sure! :) I think you handled it best you can. Will have to read this back when the times come for my boy starts wanting to play sport :)

At February 23, 2012 at 4:08 PM , Blogger The Woven Moments said...

We are struggling with this very thing at the moment with my five year old. She has NO interest in playing a team sport. NONE.

We've considered pressing the issue but it's mass hysteria as soon as we bring it up.

It took another friend to ask, "why do you care if she's on a team? maybe she's an individual competitor. what's wrong with that?"



(Love this post!)

At February 23, 2012 at 10:41 PM , Blogger Heather said...

So impressive that he stuck with the team despite all the challenges.

A great kid!

At February 24, 2012 at 10:01 AM , Blogger Boobies said...

Cutest baller EVER!

I'm not a big fan of organized sports for sooooo many reasons. Fortunately for me, 2/3 of my kids aren't athletically inclined. Jury is still out on the last one.

At February 24, 2012 at 3:30 PM , Blogger JDaniel4's Mom said...

JDaniel so disliked his sports introduction class. I don't know if he will play a sport.

At February 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

I'm sorry that he didn't enjoy basketball. I think you handled the situation very well. Maybe soccer will be his thing, and if not there is more to childhood and life than sports! Hang in there momma!

At February 27, 2012 at 1:47 PM , Blogger Shell said...

Sounds like the perfect storm of things gone wrong to conspire against it being a good season.

I hope that next season is better!

At February 27, 2012 at 8:49 PM , Blogger Missy | Literal Mom said...

We had a similar, painful experience with basketball this year. I was never so glad to see a season end in my LIFE! Painful lessons sometimes!

At February 29, 2012 at 1:32 AM , Blogger jmommymom said...

It's amazing how kids know exactly what to do when we don't. Your son said "I think next time I'll try soccor." Isn't this a big part of life... finding out what we like. - It's nice he had the experience and now you can both look forward to moving on.


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