Years ago, there was nothing in my world outside of the baseball diamond. I could not even fathom a life that existed without stealing second or making a diving play. Any day that I was not playing ball I was thinking about the next game or dreaming about hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. All through middle school, high school, and into college I knew nothing else except the smell of grass and the sounds of metal bats against balls.
And then one day baseball was no longer the center of my universe. I still "liked" to play but the "love" had moved on to other arenas. Grades, future careers, and where my life was going were more important than putting in an extra 20 minutes at the batting cage or waking up at 6 am to work out. My passion for excellence still existed but developed into something greater, something lasting and growing with each passing day.
Every step of the way
I smile when I look back on those days. Not because of the great plays I made, the games won, or the moments of excellence but for a reason that I never appreciated at the time: my parents were there every step of the way. There was never a second where my parents were not supportive of my dreams and ambitions. They stood cheering at every game, never drew negative attention to themselves when a bad call was made, made almost every game, and were apologetic for the few they missed.
My dad would throw wiffle balls to me in the backyard to improve my opposite field hitting or smash grounders at me until I cried uncle because of a sore glove hand. Through all the angst of my teenage years and the self-deluded visions of grandeur that I experienced, like most high school athlete, I never felt that my parents weren't there to support me.
Their support was not limited to sports but was for everything I did. Whether it was writing contests, cross country, college, graduate school, finding my first job, and even as I write this article, they have supported everything that I have done that demonstrates commitment, passion, ambition, and lasting fortitude. They allowed me to learn from my mistakes but were always there to catch me if I fell too hard. Because of this trust, this unyielding commitment, I have the confidence to break through walls that without their support seemed impenetrable.
Just showing up makes a difference
One day your child will be someone great, but, honestly, it likely won't be in the big leagues. They will take their passions and carry them to other arenas, growing to make their own waves in this world. The support you give your child in the stands will be something they will carry with them the rest of their lives. Knowing that someone is there to be supportive in success and defeat is the most powerful intangible force that a parent can offer their child. Believing in oneself starts with others believing in you, whether its showing up to practice, offering positive words in defeat, providing constructive feedback or clapping like crazy at their games.
In short, showing up is half the battle. It makes all the difference.
Keith J. Cronin is a physical therapist in the St. Louis, Missouri area.
Created January 13, 2010