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May 06, 2006

Take Me Out, Etc., Etc.



Athena's baseball season began today, and I believe she's in the "let's feel good about ourselves" league, because in this variation of baseball, the entire side gets to bat, the coach pitches, and everyone is out on the field whether they need to be or not. I'm not entirely sure they even keep score. I don't actually have a problem with this, mind you -- at this age and level of coordination, it's probably for the best that the kids playing focus on things like learning to hit and throw and run as opposed to freaking out about winning or losing. On the other hand, it does make for a crowded infield.



Case in point: there are four little girls playing between second and third base (not to mention a couple who are further down in the infield). I think there are 15 little girls on Athena's team, which means you have six additional bodies on the field (actually seven, as there is a coach pitching to the batters). At least they're small bodies (the little girls, that is; the coaches are pretty much normal size).



Athena did pretty well at the plate; she got a single in the first inning and a double in the second (and that was as many innings as they had time for -- funny how the innings go long when everyone gets to bat and there are, like, ten strikes before an out is called). Athena's good with the hitting, not so much with the running; she doesn't so much run as stroll. She either needs to learn to speed up or develop such a mighty swing that she gets home runs every time she gets to the plate. Really, either would work.

The good news is that she generally seems to be having fun playing, and at this point that's the right goal for her to have. And it makes for a nice Saturday morning.

Posted by john at May 6, 2006 02:58 PM

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Comments

Clearmoon | May 6, 2006 06:29 PM

The good news is that she generally seems to be having fun playing, and at this point that's the right goal for her to have.

At her age, I'd say you're right... if no one starts keeping score in the next year or two, I think that's definitely wrong, and I'd start asking questions.

I live about 30 miles from Riverton, KS, which recently had a rather dubious 15 minutes of fame. Namely, the foiled school shooting that the national media has already forgotten about.

I would submit (my humble opinion, of course) that well-intentioned things like not keeping score in kids' sports actually contribute to the kinds of pent-up aggression that lead to the kind of Columbine-esque violence we've come to expect.

Sports are one of the main places children learn social skills, specifically winning and losing - and how to do both with grace and a proper attitude. (School is another, and the ones that take away failing as an option serve no one.)

Parents of course play a huge role in all of this as well. We have to teach children that things won't always go their way, that other people might pick on them, the right ways to stand up for themselves.

I work with a guy that has a 15-year-old daughter in Riverton High. We were talking about the whole thing in the days after it happened. He brought up scorekeeping in kids' sports, among other things. It really made me think about the subtle changes that have happened since we were kids, and the consequences they may be having.

PS: Sorry for hijacking the post... I think it's great that Athena like baseball!

John Scalzi | May 6, 2006 06:43 PM

Inasmuch as the next-highest age bracket of girls' baseball definitely has scoring, I don't think this will be an issue.

Jan | May 6, 2006 06:54 PM

I disagree, good-naturedly and wholeheartedly, with the previous commenter (er, the one above John there), but rather than type up a windy explanation, I will just refer you to one of Alfie Kohn's books, esp. _The Case Against Competition_.

That having been said, I don't really have a problem with scoring girls' baseball or whatever. I just don't think it would lead to the decline and fall of our society (quite the opposite, actually) if we didn't. Use scores, I mean.

Anonymous | May 6, 2006 07:33 PM

Athena's good with the hitting, not so much with the running; she doesn't so much run as stroll.

Hee... I can just imagine this. Does she realize that she's in a race against the infielders? Or is the infield as leisurely?

AliceB | May 6, 2006 08:40 PM

I'm cheered by the number of kids who are into baseball these days, given how difficult Major League Baseball has made it for kids to enjoy the games. In our town of 25,000, about 1/4 of all kids are involved in some baseball team or another--which aside for some real (and justified) grumbling by the neighbors of our baseball fields about noise and parking, is a great thing. My kids, who never got into playing, love watching: it's how my youngest learned to appreciate statistics.

I hope Athena continues to enjoy the sport, on and off the field.

Best,
Alice

Byron | May 7, 2006 12:37 AM

I'm guessing Alfie Kohn was always chosen last in P.E. and watched a lot of Star Trek. There is absolutely nothing wrong with competition either internal or external. There is such a thing as taking it too far (e.g. steriod scandal) but for the life of me I can't think of a single major human achievement that resulted from a group hug.

Jan | May 7, 2006 01:50 AM

I'm not familiar with Mr. Kohn's tastes in TV shows or sports aptitude, but I do know that he managed to write an entire book without resorting to the use of an ad hominem attack. Pretty impressive, if you think about it.

Byron | May 7, 2006 01:20 PM

Not particularly, no. Dry (pseudo) technical books happen all the time. In any case, you might want to check up on those. They likely bias his position quite a bit. Frankly, I'd be happier if he was an avid Star Trek fan since that would at least mean that he's utopian idealist rather than some guy with a chip on his shoulder because he was never any good at football, etc, etc. Seriously, how are you going to strive without something to strive for?

Lisa | May 7, 2006 09:17 PM

I don't think the problem is keeping score, I think the problem is the attitude that adults portray about the score.

We've all seen the uber competative dad yelling at his kid for screwing up and having a hissy fit at a call he disagrees with. I remember being on teams as a kid (and as a visually impaired kid, I obviously sucked big-time at the flying object sports), anyway, I was often not even allowed to play at games even though I showed up at every practice and tried my best (and didn't always fail miserably...just most of the time.)

If kids are taught to do their best, follow the rules and celebrate winning with grace and take losing in stride, then scoring is great. However, if their parents, coaches, teammates, act like a major league, multimillion dollar contract is on the line at every game and model un-sportsmanlike assholian behavior...then, yeah, competition sucks.

Anne C. | May 7, 2006 11:27 PM

Athletic competition is like any other ranking system. It has it's flaws. Standardized tests are the same. They reward those who have innate talent equally with those who work their butts off. As someone who breezed through school, I didn't participate in sports because it required actual effort. "I'm not instantly good? Thanks, but no thanks." I'm sure others have experienced it the other way around.
Now I play in a recreational co-ed indoor soccer team. It's teaching me a lot about team/group dynamics and accountability, but I can't say I was incomplete without this experience.
I know from personal experience there are plenty of adults out there who don't know how to win or lose gracefully. Did they not play sports as a child to learn this? Unlikely. The answer almost always is that there was no adult mentor modelling proper behavior. It seems that having or not having competition is immaterial. It is, as Lisa said, about the adults around the kids.

Anne C. | May 7, 2006 11:29 PM

Oops.

"It has its flaws..."
and
Loved the post, John. It made me laugh, especially with the picture of all the kids on the field. :)

Brian Greenberg | May 7, 2006 11:41 PM

John - my son's league (two weeks in, now) is exactly like Athena's league, if not a little worse. There are no outs at all (if the kid swings and misses a few times in a row), they put the ball on a tee. If the kids actually manage to put together an out, the runner gets the base anyway. There's no such thing as a "double," because the kids take one base at a time (except the last kid, who gets to run around all the bases - again, regardless of where the ball is).

At yesterday's game, someone popped the ball up in the air, and one of the 3-4 shortstops actually managed to catch it on a fly. The batter was confused - he thought he was out, but the coaches had to tell him to take first base anyway.

I think there are two reasons they don't keep track of outs, runs, etc. The first is a good one and the second is a lousy one. The good reason is that the score would invariably be 18-18 (or thereabouts) after each inning, and it might literally take all day to get three outs. Nothing will turn young kids off a sport as quickly has standing around in the outfield all game while the other team keeps hitting and hitting and hitting.

The lousy reason is the whole "afraid of making the kids feel bad" thing. This bugs me because a) I try to raise my son to expect constructive feedback from time to time, and to use it to get better, not to get upset, and b) it's not only failing to teach the kids the rules of the game, but it's contradicting the rules in many cases (like when the kid knew he was out & got first base anyway).

Like your town, my town's 2nd year league is much more like regular baseball, and like Athena, my son is having a great time with it, so I'm grinning and bearing it for the 12 Saturday mornings it goes on, and spending more constructive time with him in the backyard improving his skills and his knowledge of the game.

Byron | May 8, 2006 10:46 AM

However, if their parents, coaches, teammates, act like a major league, multimillion dollar contract is on the line at every game and model un-sportsmanlike assholian behavior.

The major leagues (too varying extents. The hockey guys seem to be happy to just be playing these days, which is as it should be) are not competitive sports so much as they are businesses. As evidenced by performance of a certain outclassed Team USA.

Smurf | May 9, 2006 09:49 AM

If you don't stuff the infield like that, no one would ever get to a ground ball. These kids are 4 feet tall, and have a side to side range of about 8 feet on any slow grounder.

They should always keep score. There is a time for not keeping score/working on skills... it's practice.

Sports have always served as an allegory for the real world. Most of the lessons you learn playing sports help you to crush a rival in the business field or destroy an army sitting over your oil supply when you get older. You even learn to be a cog in the engine... "sure, you sat on the bench all game... but you helped."

I was about 10, at a basketball camp. I wasn't 5 feet tall yet. A girl faked left, went right, and schooled me with an acrobatic layup in traffic. As we were heading back up the court, I said 'nice shot." I meant it... it was very impressive.

My coach (a well known college player who was doing this gig as a camp counselor) stopped the game, stomped out onto the court, and screamed at me. He may have even inferred that he was thinking about striking me. I may have cried.

But he was right. Life is nothing more than a savage struggle to become the biggest fish on the food chain chart. The sooner I learn that, the sooner I become better.


Anonymous | April 12, 2007 06:11 PM

hi my doughter nikole would like to get into base ball

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