Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Better Living Through Mediocrity

This was my second year as an assistant T-ball coach, and this year we had two of our three boys playing. Thankfully, they were on the same team. Our regular season activities ended last Saturday, and would have ended a full week earlier had we not been making up some early-season rain-outs. It was a pretty busy year for us, sports-wise, but I’m almost positive that every year from now on will be busier. Next year, all three boys will play, and they will all be on different teams. The parental logistics of that will be interesting, to say the least.

This year, we had four players on our T-ball team that stood out head and shoulders above the rest in terms of skill. Thankfully, I was not related to any of them. My boys were mediocre, and that’s just how we like them. Allow me to explain.

The four best players from our team were recruited toward the end of the season to play on championship teams. (Keep in mind that these are five and six-year-olds. We take our baseball pretty seriously in Rocklin, California.) Those four kids were going to extra practices during the tail end of our season, and they all played in a Memorial Day weekend tournament.

Now, you may hear “Memorial Day weekend tournament,” and think, “Sounds like fun.” We went to watch a few of the games, and while there were many fun and exciting moments, the tournament was also very time-consuming. Not for my family, mind you, but for the families of the all-stars.

My family and I were free to do whatever we wanted over the long weekend. We ended up at the ballpark to watch a few games, but we also slept late in the mornings, made two trips to friends’ houses for dinners, and generally set our own schedule. The families of the all-stars were not so lucky. The tournament ruled their schedules. When asked what they had planned for the weekend, they were forced to answer, “I don’t know. It depends on how we do in the tournament.”

These scheduling woes didn’t apply to just the baseball families, either. On Sunday afternoon, we stopped by a local college to meet one of my wife’s good friends. Her daughter was playing in a youth soccer tournament, and her whole family had been there, and hour’s drive from their home, for two full days. I asked her how her daughter was doing in the tournament, and in an antithetically dejected voice she replied, “They keep winning. We were supposed to be at a friend’s house for dinner, but we have to stay for the championship game. The other two kids are bummed out because they wanted to see their friends, but instead, we all need to stay here.”

Long weekends aside, kids’ sports can also affect vacation plans. About a week ago, our good friends from college had to send us regrets and cancel their plans to come up from Southern California to go to Lake Tahoe for a week. We were planning on meeting up with them there at the end of June, but their oldest son ended up being one of 12 eight-year-olds picked out of 130 to be in an all-star baseball tournament.

Witnessing this all-star ball-and-chain effect that so many of our friends are going through got me thinking. Kids’ hopes and dreams are one thing, but what about mine? I have hopes and dreams, too. One of them is to be able to sit down every once in a while, and not have every Saturday for the rest of my life already booked with one of my kid’s sporting events. I am the father of what appear to be three rather promising-looking boys in the sports and athletics department. So far, they are a little too young to be shining, but I fear that it is only a matter of time.

Back when they were born and I was a proud and naïve papa, I was no doubt looking forward to them holding the trophy high above their heads one day. Now, the more I see, the more I think mediocrity might be the ticket.

“Maybe we don’t need to practice so much in the backyard, Son. Why don’t you go burn leaves and ants with a magnifying glass instead?”

Don’t get me wrong. I still want them to play sports, just not in an outstanding manner that may cause the seasons to be extended in any way. My new plan is to shoot for third place. That way, I might actually get to go fishing every once in a while.

“What are you doing this summer, Bob?”
“We’re committed through August with Junior’s baseball Champions Bracket. How about you, Smidge?”
“Not us! Did you see my kid drop that grounder at shortstop during the last game? No way he was going to make the post-season. We’re going to Cabo!”

“Hey, Smidge. Did you hear about the baseball clinic that the Sierra College baseball coach is putting on for the kids? Only $130 for three days!”
“Not interested, Phil. My boys aren’t big league material. No sense fighting facts.”

“Hey Smidge, want to enroll your kids in Taekwondo?”
“What are they going to be, the next Jackie Chan? No, thanks. I’d like to keep at least some of my money, and maybe a few of my evenings and weekends free.”

“Want to enroll your kids in our two-week soccer camp?”
“No, thanks. The regular soccer season is painful enough. And let’s face it, soccer as a professional sport is never going to catch on in America, so I don’t really see the point in the first place.”

I think I am going to extend my third place approach into their academics as well. Based on the size of their heads, their mom’s DNA, and their incredible Lego skills, my kids will probably end up being pretty smart. That being said, I plan to encourage and nurture their education only to the point that it does not interfere with my life.

They will be required to maintain good grades, but will be expressly forbidden from joining any sort of academic club that has extra-curricular activities. The last thing I want is to have successfully thwarted post-season athletics and accidentally end up stuck at a chess tournament or a debate club’s weekend rebuttal-o-rama.

The problem is, holding them back might end up being more difficult than I think. We may be able to keep them at bay with enough TV, but it’s going to be touch-and-go. Boy Number One is proving to be a pretty good piano player, Number Two is quite a little over-achiever, both academically and physically, and Number Three is already a wicked switch hitter at three years old. It’s not looking good.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go hide the bats and balls and turn on the TV. Forget your homework, boys, let’s watch some Disney channel!

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

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