Making the Team
My sons were just five when they played on their first youth sports team. I can still vividly recall that night in April when the head coach called to tell me that they were on the T-ball "Red Sox" and that the first practice would be held at the high school softball field in two days.
After I hung up the phone, I paused a moment to catch my breath. It was a truly exciting time for me. The past five years had been a lot of work, but now I felt some of the real fun was about to start. I knew if my sons were anything like their mom and dad, they would love sports, especially baseball. Their dad was an avid fan, and my father had played minor league baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization. I hoped that the triplets would find a sport or two that they could enjoy playing the rest of their lives.
When I told the boys that they were on the Red Sox, their eyes lit up and they began grinning from ear to ear. They quickly formed their ceremonial huddle, which was reserved for the happiest times, locked their arms around each other's necks and began jumping up and down, giggling with joy.
The next day, I took the boys to the local sporting goods store to buy new baseball gloves. After trying on a number of gloves, each found one he liked. We left the store with three gloves, one bat, three T-balls and three packs of Gator gum, eagerly anticipating the first practice the following evening.
The First Practice: Business As Usual
When we arrived at practice, four fathers holding clipboards and wearing Red Sox caps and jackets greeted us. The boys were told to pair up and play catch, while the coaches circulated, writing notes on their clipboards. Their stern expressions and lack of jovial banter conveyed the message to parents that they were in charge and not to be approached. We were told we could leave and come back to pick up sons in an hour.
Some of the "veteran" parents left. Like a few of the "rookies," I stayed to watch. Over the course of the practice, each of my sons checked in with me several times, looking for reassurance. They were the youngest boys on the team, just old enough on the July 31st cut-off date to be eligible to play that spring. Some of their teammates were almost a year older; a huge difference developmentally at such a young age. I kept telling them that everyone, including the coaches, were there to have fun. But I had a tough time believing it myself. If T-ball was all about having fun, why weren't the coaches smiling? Why weren't they interacting with the boys? What could possibly be so important that all four were toting clipboards?