“Mom, I’m good at baseball, right?”
And I hesitate.
Because he is not good at baseball.
“No buddy, you aren’t good at baseball. ” I say.
And it’s not the first time I say it. I find myself saying it again that weekend when we are in the back yard playing catch. “I’m great at this” he says as he throws the ball the wrong way, it barely making it a few feet in front of him.
“No buddy you’re not” I say, “you are throwing the ball wrong. Watch me.”
And I can tell he’s mad.
“Why do you keep saying I’m doing it wrong?”
Because you are doing it wrong and if I tell you, you are doing it right you are going to keep doing it wrong. Because if I say you are good at it you are going to think that you don’t have to try harder. You aren’t going to learn how to play right.
So I walk over and show him again how to throw the ball and how to hold the bat. We practice swinging over and over again. I throw the ball until he catches it and he throws it back to me, laughing as I miss the ball again and again.
We practice and we practice some more. He’s learning. And that’s the thing he doesn’t need to be good or great, he needs to learn.
Kids sports are about learning, not being a super star. They are about learning how to throw a ball, how to score a goal or how to shoot a basket. They are about learning the rules to the game and about being part of a team. They are about learning to lose with grace and win without boasting. So right now he doesn’t need to be great, he needs to learn and once he learns how to play then he can worry about being great or not. I don’t care if he’s good at sports. I don’t care if he never hits a home run, but I do care that he tries hard. He’s never going to learn or try if he thinks he is good when he has barely learned how to play.
Just because I won’t tell him he’s great, doesn’t mean I won’t cheer him on as he learns, it doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge when he’s trying hard or let him know that he’s getting better. When he scores the goal or gets the hit, I’ll be the one cheering the loudest and the first one to say, that he played great. Because there is a lesson to be learned in earning the accolades rather than assuming you will get them just for showing up.