There are tens of thousands of four, five and six year olds playing Baseball, Soccer, Softball or another sport this spring for the first time.
Just like with every other new situation – like schools and adding siblings – their parents are worried that it might not be the right thing for their kids.
It could start off seeming like the right thing and turn for some reason during the season. It’s a long season, and every family goes through their ups and downs with sports.
Before taking up Soccer, Aidan played several seasons of Baseball.
He never complained about going to play – but at times, his attention on the field wandered. I wasn’t sure whether he was disinterested, bored, or where his mind was. (I’ve seen it’s really common in the field for at least half of the kids in the field to lose focus at ages six and under.)
During at bats, there were plate appearances that Aidan seemed distant or resigned to making an out.
Inside, it killed me. I had grown up as a Baseball player from age 5 to high school. I had followed the Orioles for years and knew the entire team before I was in first grade. What if my son didn’t like Baseball?
I wanted to do everything I could to try to bring him back. But anyone who has played sports knows that trying too hard sometimes makes success impossible. There’s an expression: “Try Easy.”
I would ask Aidan to practice at home – with varying results. I tried to keep an open line of communication with him. I’ve long had a good speaking relationship with him and have been able to ask insightful questions. But I didn’t know what to ask.
The upside through this episode was that he continued to enjoy his teammates and time on the bench. I saw him talking, smiling and laughing during games and spending time with his teammates.
What to Do
We just kept going to the practices and games. I kept assisting our coach and warming up with Aidan before games and enjoy the time with him and lower the pressure of performance.
In hindsight, and now as a coach in Soccer, I see the slumps all kids go through in sports. I think most coaches in youth sports recognize them and they struggle with them as much as the parent does.
We want our kids to be good at everything they try. We want them to find success easily. But sometimes it’s just time and experience that changes the outcomes.