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Posts tagged ‘baseball’

A Lesson in Heart: Why the Relative Age Effect is Wrong

Contrary to what some writers and sports analyst think being the smallest and youngest does not guarantee failure in a persons athletic career. Lessons are learned by team sports which go far beyond physicality, follow a child through their entire life and set them up for success.

My son is super active and in constant motion. We figured sports would help put that energy to use. We really didn’t give that much thought to the myriad of lessons learned through team sports. As we approach the end of the season I am reflecting on the amazing change and growth that team sports has brought in my child.

My son actually began with T-Ball and had an instant love for the sport. He took to it easy and made friends quickly. However, he is literally the youngest…I mean the absolute youngest player in the entire league. Due to when the division cut offs fall and when his birthday is. Much like school, in sports he is the youngest one out there.

Age is nothing but a number

If you have ready Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers, ” then you might have thought, much like myself, that having the youngest smallest child in sports would be to set him up for failure in life.  According to NY Magazine, one of Mr. Gladwell’s points is “…an initial advantage attributable to age gets turned into a more profound advantage over time.” This theory has become known as the Relative Age Effect and in my view is  bull.

Me and my husband initially considered theory for a long time and actually thought about holding my son back in school to ensure he was bigger, stronger and more mature when he began. However, intellectually he was ready and decided we would be doing his a disservice by holding him back.

When we signed him up for T-Ball, this idea came back to haunt me. Would he be the smallest? What if he is picked on? What if he struggle? How it effect his emotionally and scar him for life? Ok I probably was a bit over dramatic. But aside from the scarring him for life part all of that has happened and it is not a bad thing.

Season one and two

My son was the smallest. In being smaller and younger he did not have the motor coordination, at first, that the other players did. I watched in agony as he would miss ball after ball. However, my agony was not his. He was having a blast. He loved his coaches and they loved him as well. My son was learning what it was like to be part of a team and how to support your teammates.

More importantly he was learning resiliency. How to keep trying even if you might not get the results you want the first time. Each practice he tried his best. Never gave up and enjoyed every minute. By the end of the first year he was actually hitting the ball!

Season three

The second year brought new challenges. The size different between my son and the other kids were much more apparent. Likewise the skill level difference between him and other kids varied greatly. He fell somewhere in the middle, with older, bigger kids having more skill and motor control then he had. To my surprise there were older kids that were similar in stature to him struggled throughout the season.

Also, due to the cut off he was no longer in T-Ball. He was moved up (too soon in my opinion) to Coach Pitch. My son was scared he wouldn’t be able to do it and almost choose not the play. However, after meeting the coaches and other kids he wanted to try.

Sometimes he went game after game without a hit. Without a play or so much as touching the ball. There were a few times I turned to mush as he cried that he wanted to give up. The difference is he didn’t. He asked me and his Dad to practice with him more. (which we did.) He started to pay better attention during practice. With hands on his knees he was “baseball ready,” instead of throwing his mitt around the outfield.

While it was heartbreaking to see him leave the batter’s box dejected and sad, there was a lesson in this as well. It was a lesson about playing with Heart. Heart, Will, Determination, Fortitude, Resilience, call it what you will. It is what winning teams are made from.

You can see it time and time again when the underdog, underestimated teams blowing away their opponents. The 1980 US Hockey team, the 2004 Red Sox, and most recently the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.  In most cases it is not purely, skill, strength or physical prowess that does the job. It is Heart and that is what my son was learning.

His abilities to field, hit and pay attention long enough to get through an inning were finally starting to come on line. By the end of the season he was hitting pretty regularly and had a good grasp of the game. Plus, he understood what it felt like to overcome a struggle.

Season Four

This past season was yet another lesson. Most of his teammate were almost a full 2 years older then he is. Many were now in travel ball league. This meant they had skills far beyond my son. I mean these kids were turning double plays! He had just learned how to hit. However, what surprised me was the social struggle. It seemed like none of the kids knew where they fit with each other. The age and skills varied so greatly. The older kids were not very nice. With the idea they were better players they acted like jerks to the younger kids.

My son, who pretty much gets along with everyone,  had a really hard time with this. It was the first time he was encountering bigger kids who were being bullies. He doesn’t really find them in school because of the anti-bullying efforts, but here on the ball field they still exist. I had a big issue with this and was ready to pull him out of the league.

However my husband stopped me. He reminded me that he NEEDS to learn how to deal with them. IF he doesn’t learn these lessons now he will have a harder time in life when he encounters bullies in the real world.  Boy was it tough to watch these kids but I knew he was right. he had to learn to stick up for himself. If things got bad I could step in. But as painfully hard as it was I had to let him fight his own battle. Uggg!

He was right, my son did learn how to stand up for himself. The effort in overcoming his fear also brought with it a new confidence in his abilities. I watched in amazement as he no only became a solid hitter he actually began to hit it into the outfield. Along with this his fielding also improved. With the encouragement and knowledge of incredible coaches he has grown into a strong player and a respected teammate.

Lessons for life

Being part of a team sport has brought along its challenges but the lessons learned and triumphs have been so worth it. These lessons learned through sports are what will make him a success, not the month he was born and when his birthday falls.  So Mr. Gladwell you are dead wrong that the smaller, younger kids are set up to fail due to age disadvantages that follow them through life.

You didn’t take into account all of the people like coaches, players, friends and family who help to mold them. Mr. Gladwell you also did not consider the many athlete’s who were not the ideal physical specimen, who might not have natural talent but still achieve greatness through hard work, will and determination.

Yes, my son is still the youngest and his is still one of the smallest but like many underestimated people he has Heart and that is what you need to win in the game of life.

 

 

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Baseball Wall and Boy’s Bedroom Makeover -Part 1

Baseball Wall and Boy's Bedroom Makeover -Part 1So I had this hair brained idea. One day while sitting in my son’s bedroom I started looking around and notice his room has changed little since he was born. Before his birth, my husband had painted our baby boys room a nice light blue. Being a Red Sox fan he also went out and purchase Red Sox Fathead vinyl wall decals. His baby furniture was  his sisters crib and changing table which was still in great condition. Later the table converted into a dresser and he got a  very basic “big boy” bed. As he grew we added a place for his books, an a few more pieces of décor like a shelf for his little league trophy’s.

He is not a baby anymore

However, as I sat in this baby blue room, I realized his room was mostly filled with items he has had since he was an infant. It was as if a 6-yer-old boys belongings were crammed into a toddlers space.   His Lego’s now take up all of the top surface of his dresser. His Star Wars and Ninja Turtle figures are overflowing out of the too small bins in his closet. The room did not really fit him anymore. His twin bed had no footboard or headboard and the changing table/ dresser was fat for this space.

Here came the mommy guilt when I realized in his 6 years of life his  sister had her room done over twice. (Once was because of a leak which caused us to have to replace her flooring.) How could I have been so unfair? He had never even  asked for his room to be redone like his sister had so it just never happened.

That is where my hair brained idea got its start.  I scoured Pinterest with my son by my side and grilled him on which pictures of boy rooms he liked. After a few days a patterned emerged. Thankfully, he was still drawn to a baseball theme, much to his Dad’s delight, so we could reuse the Red Sox images.

The Baseball Wall

I have never done a room redo on this blog and there is a reason. They are hard! Also, I am no design expert. but in perusing the internet I found my inspiration.  I would create a feature wall painted like the stitches of a baseball! My son was equally as excited by this idea.) It was similar to these here.

baseball wall

Image found on pinterest

baseball wall

Image found on pinterest

I was hoping to enlist my friend who has a whole lot more art talent them me, but we could never seem to get together a time.

After many months of putting it off I decided to get started. I painted 3 of the walls a nice leathery tan. Not wanting it to be too deep, since it is a very small room, I aimed for a color somewhere between infield dirt and a wood baseball bat. The painting went very smoothly for this part. However, after 6 years and a very active boy, the prep-work to repair holes and dings felt like it took ages.

It was up to me… with help from the Internet

Next came the hard part. How was I going to make this baseball wall happen? I mean, I am no artist. Could I really pull this off? I had already told my son I was going todo it. Him was excited so I had to at least try.

In my internet search I found a ton of pictures but surprisingly few tutorials about how to paint a baseball on a  wall. How do you get the shading of a roughed up ball? How to make the stitches even? There were some on how to create a template and paint the stitches. This one from gaining mommymentum   ,tippytoesandtantrums.com  and Simply Mom were the most helpful.

A change in direction

The job would be broken down into 3 parts; sketch out the stitches, faux paint the wall, paint the stitches. Sound pretty easy right? Boy was I wrong. Little did I know how in over my head I was Gaining Mommymentum had a great suggestion of using string and a pencil to sketch out the arch for the stiches in each corner. As I was about to get started I asked my son what he thought. Boy, did that go wrong. He stated he wanted the stiches from top to bottom not corner to corner. Like in this picture from the Creative Imperative, which incidentally became my inspiration picture. baseball wall

That literally changed the ball game. How was I got to accomplish that? The guy who did these was an artist and painted some amazing rooms.  I tried free handing it and made a huge pencil mess all over the wall which me and my son had to spend 15 minutes erasing. I tried to alter the string technique but the wall was just to big.

Goggle to the rescue. Searching “how to paint a curved line on a wall,” and found this tutorial from thehippiehomestead. I proceeded to measure out where my curve would start at the top of the wall, where the middle point would be, then where the bottom matching point was. Using thumb tack to mark each, I then stretched a piece of string around the points.

sorry about the ladder I had no where to move it

I could not get the long pieces of tape to curve the way he did, so I finally gave up and went with small pieces of tape to hold the string in place. Then traced the curve out in small increments between the tape pieces along the edge of my string. This worked ok since I wanted my line to be pretty thin anyway.

And we’re blending

Once I was happy with the curve and felt pretty good about myself, I started in on the paint.  Having already done a base white coat after prepping and sanding the wall, I thought this part might be decently easy.  At this point my kids really wanted to help. Since I didn’t really know what I was doing I might as well let them have at it. My plan was to mix 1 part brown paint, 1 part white paint and 2 parts glaze to create a light brownish.

The Creative Imperative post states she basically put it on the wall and blended. Granted she has an artists eye and I do not. But this method appealed to me as it required the least amount of tools and seemed easiest, so I went for it. I let my kids do the bottom and I did the top.

What happened to the wall?

We were all swishing and blending away having a great time. After a while I stepped back to observe. Here is were I get nervous. This was not looking like a roughed up baseball. It was looking like a brown disaster. What was I thinking? My kids were having a blast but I kept thinking about how I was going to fix this?

We stopped to take a break and ran back out to Home Depot and get some small roller brushes. The solution, I decided, would be to cover it with a white glaze mixture. Hopefully, that will knockdown the harsh brush strokes and way too dark brown streaks. By this point my husband popped his head in on his way out to work. I could see from the look on his face he was a bit worried about the brown streaky mess I had created on my son’s wall. He said goodbyes and didn’t mention anything about the paint job.(Which was for the best.)

Now to fix this mess

After our second run to Home Depot, a stop for some dinner ingredients and a short time outside playing catch. I got back to painting feeling much better about the prospect. The white glaze mixture worked out perfectly. It totally toned down the wall and mellowed out the streakiness. To my surprise it actually was looking more like a dirty baseball and less like a lunatic ran around with brown paint. painted wall I was so relieve. It was actually starting to look like the inspiration picture!

Now for the stitches

Then came the hardest part of the painting. The part that took a steady hand. (Which I do not have.) Painting the stitches. I tried to use a small form brush as mentioned in one of the tutorials. I guess I was a little nervous and pushed too hard making a big jagged red mark. The line was uneven, wonky and way too thick in several places. A crooked red streak on a white wall. But tippytoesandtantrums.com said she felt the same about her initial line. (Although I doubt hers was anywhere need as bad as mine.)

I  found a smaller brush with a firmer edge and decided it might work better. The second line was much thinner and less jagged. Although, I had to touch up several spots where I had accidentally gotten red in places, all in all the second curve came out much more to my liking. White paint was my friend and I made that first curve disappear and attempted it another time. Even though it was not perfect it was much better then the first time around.

Use what is around

As mentioned in one of the tutorials I created a template to paint on the “v” stitches.  I used a paint swatch card and cut a simple v into it. For a spacer I found a pack of gum my kids had finished off that was the perfect size.

Starting off lightly at first and it was slow going. Got to tell you this was tedious and I kept getting red paint on everything. But then the magic happened and you could see a baseball emerge from a plan wall. This was the cool part. Once all the laces were drawn in, I went back over them to neaten and darken them up a bit. Then I stood back and stared in amazement. There it was a baseball on my son’s wall…and I, the non-artist, had done it.  Pretty awesome!

Then I looked around the rest of his room littered with painters tape, string,  foam brushes, drop cloths, ninja turtle figures and wondered who was going to clean up this mess. Next month I will post part two of my son’s baseball bedroom makeover where I will talk about his furniture and reveal the finished room.

5 Things for Parents to Remember on the Sidelines of Youth Sports

5 things for parents to remember on the sidelines of youth sportsPlaying youth sports has so many benefits. It teaches teamwork, leadership, and perseverance among other things. These are skills a child will refer back to their entire life. Becoming involved in sports helps to shape children into amazing adults, productive human beings and incredible role models. Having my children involved in sports teams it is fascinating to watch as they learn new skills, develop leadership and overcome interpersonal challenges.

Once of the most heart warming of sights is seeing my son light up when his coach takes special time with him to congratulate or teach him a new skill. Coaches have such an important role in the life of these beginning athletes. They teach them valuable skills and connect with them in a different way then a parent. [ctt title=”Coaches are role models. They are an important influence in teaching kids how to become good, well-rounded human beings.” tweet=”Coaches are role models. They are an important influence in teaching kids how to become good, well-rounded human beings.” coverup=”EK09j”]

For this reason I have always felt an immediate respect for these types of coaches, especially those who are unpaid volunteers. They give so much of themselves and their time to help make children into a better people. While coaches and the team setting are important, there is one piece of this puzzle than I am leaving out. This is the person who can make or break the childhood sports experience. That is the parent.

I look back on fond memories shared with my dad as he yelled from the sidelines of my soccer game. It was one of the few occasions in our relationship where I felt he truly believed in me and will always be something I cherish . Unfortunately, this is not always be the behavior of parents on the sidelines or youth sports coaches.

Since the inception of youth teams there have always been “those ” parents. You know the one. The one with a secret dream of become an NFL star, or Major Leaguer but never got a chance. These are the ones that do not just believe their 5 year old can be the next Johnny Bench or Magic  Johnson. They are determined to make is happen.

They get a bit overzealous and turn the game from being light-hearted fun into pressure filled warfare. We can all have be this parent from time to time but most of us can pull ourselves back from the edge and leave the coaching to the coach. However, their are some adults who forget these are kids and this is just a game.

It has gotten so bad that most youth leagues now require parents sign a Code of Ethics pledge. The code of ethics is intended to remind parents to well…act like adults. Apparently, it has happened enough times and in enough instances that a signed document is necessary to keep parents in check.

I can say from personal experience I became totally disgusted when a parent coach in my sons little league violated this pledge. He was a coach/player parent/league administrator and for years has used his position to cherry pick his teams. Selecting only the best, most experienced and oldest players to dominate over all others grade schoolers and win the championship each season. He had to secure the coveted plastic, baseball batter atop a metallic blue stand. The underwhelming trophy telling everyone he is a “T-ball Championship Winner.”

These are 6 and 7- year-olds! The dejected look on my son’s face knowing this team was unbeatable, broke my heart. To hear his team members sadly state they were going to loss before the game ever started, was awful. All for what? What skills did this teach any of them. What challenge did it present to the other team? All so a pathetic, broken man could fulfill his dream of little league domination.

In another instance there are the parents who cart there kid all over creation because the have to be part of a “travel” team. They must attend completions and tournaments. Don’t get me wrong if the kid wants to do this it could be a genuine special memory between parent and child. The problem comes in when the need of the parent to relive their glory days outweigh the logic of the situation. Like having your 7-year-old spend summer weekend in another state competing when all they really want to do is be home playing with their friends.

As parents we only want the best for our children. That being said, we all have the potential to be those parents. We just lose sight of why our kids are playing sports in the first place. To have fun. Here are five ways to keep yourself in check as a parent of a young athlete.

Model good sportsmanship

Recognize your child will take their cues from your behavior. If you bad-mouth another team or player they will think this is acceptable behavior and follow suit.

Recognize the team in addition to your child

It is important to not fixate only on the actions of just our child. Recognizing the accomplishments other players in front of your child helps demonstrates leadership and teamwork. Encouraging your child to cheer on and congratulate others will also foster these skills.

Demonstrate Respect

Always speak to other parents, coaches, umpires and referees with respect even when you disagree. Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening. If you are feeling to emotional to restrain yourself. Walk away.

Make sure you are not pressuring your kids to live out your dreams

This is a tough one and it is easy to fall into without noticing. Everyone harbors secret dreams that their 7-year-old child will be the phenome player heading to the big leagues. But sometimes these secret hopes don’t remain secret. Some of the warning signs are being overly critical if you child misses a play or expecting them to play at a level well beyond their age and physicality. If you are buying your kid expensive equipment they never asked for it might be a good idea to examine what emotions you have invested in their sport.

Remember you are the parent, not the player

Be attentive to the needs and emotions as they grow in their sport. Also know when to step back, let them learn and find their own way. Allow them to be a kid who loves to play without the pressure of being the best. Look for chances to encourage and build self esteem. When they make a misstep help them learn to deal with losses and mistakes with grace and dignity. If parents can accept their supporting role, instead of coach or former player, then a lifetime of teachable moments, beautiful memories and valuable skills await.

 

hint with a kick of natural caffeine

Be A Kid Again. 5 Ways To Have A Child Like Summer

being a kid again this summerAdulting is hard. Paying taxes, earning an income, maintaining a home.  It’s hard to work all day  then June Clever it when we get home. With the end of the school year approaching and the beginning of summer right around the corner, I think back to childhood and summer break that seem to last forever. One of  the cruelest jokes of being an adult is losing our summer break. As an adult we lose this precious play time and are told to work the whole 12 months of the year. Since I am looking forward to a relaxing, fun summer, filled with freedom and frolicking (well, in between work of course,) I have decided to recapture that childlike summer feeling. I invite you to do the same, at least for a weekend. [ctt title=”Reclaim the childlike fun that adulthood stole from us” tweet=”Reclaim the childlike fun that adulthood stole from us” coverup=”Z18GM”] (Ok, I’m getting a bit dramatic now) But seriously, tap into your childlike creativity, find something you want to do just for the pure fun of doing it. For at least a weekend leave your adulting behind and think like a child again. Here are some ways I intend to do this:

  1. Go watch the boys of summer and catch a live baseball game –  Even if you can’t take in a Major League Game, you can always cheer on the local t-ball team that plays down the block. Nothing is funnier and more childlike then seeing a 4 year old throwing their baseball glove carelessly in the air as the ball rolls by them. Priceless!
  2. Go get some ice cream with your kids – No, I don’t mean the low-fat fro-yo, I’m watching my weight version of ice cream. The good stuff! You probably can’t do this all the time but once in a while get a cone full of real ice cream that melts in the summer heat, drips down your arm and tastes divine.
  3. Break out the sidewalk chalk – Channel your inner Burt (from Mary Poppins,) get on the ground and start drawing. Make a hopscotch board, a winding path, or race track. Ok maybe you can’t jump into the picture like Mary and Burt did. But you can totally pretend!
  4. Play Marco/Polo – Remember the summertime pool games you played as a kid. Try them out as adult. You might not look the coolest doing an underwater handstand, but you will defiantly have more fun.
  5.  Enjoy the great outdoors –  Remember all those summer cookouts as a kid where you would just run around and play as the sun sets. Then you made s’mores by the camp fire and looked at the stars. You can still do that if you take the time. Take one evening, make some s’mores on the grill  and sit outside with the kids trying to find the big dipper in the night sky.

I know we can’t act like a kid all the time but sometimes tapping into your inner child is the perfect way to put life into perspective and rediscover what is truly important.


The Best Machine for DIY Projects

Baseball Season

This is in response to the daily post phot challenge “Seasons.”

wp-1455976331193.jpgThese dirty little shoes represent my son’s first year in T-ball. This season of my life is busy, and hurried but so full of love and life.

 

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T-ball Victory

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Victory.” My sons tball team getting ready for victory wpid-2015-11-13-17.47.29.jpg.jpg

Baseball and Mountain Traveling

ny5

Yesterday was a travel day. We left Niagara with a last ditch effort to get another glimpse at the Falls, but the American side was under construction so we decided to head out.

Still no knowing what the hurricane would do, we played it by ear and decided to travel to Saratoga Springs with a stop at Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

image

The drive was magnificent, with all the Fall colors on display. It was also a little scary seeing as most of the drive was a mountainous  2 lane road with no shoulder. Might not be a big deal to most people but after almost 20 years of flat land driving, it was a bit nerve-wracking. That land was beautiful….I mean just breath taking!

image

The main street of Cooperstown was absolutely charming as well. The Baseball Hall of Fame was something everyone should see at least once in their life (kind of like the Falls ). Being a Red Sox fan and a fan of Baseball, I found it fascinating. We has such a good time. It was a great experience.

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Today we drive the rest of the way thru NYC and to Long Island. Hopefully the Hurricane will go out to sea and driving won’t be to bad.

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