Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Little League

Lately I've been spending a lot of time watching the Little League World Series.  It's a rather strange fascination of mine I guess, but I've always loved it.  It's not just the big world series event, I've just always loved youth sports.  Back when my PTSD and anxiety were so bad I could barely function, one of the few things I truly enjoyed was going out to the local little league field.  For some reason I just felt safe there.  It felt like, when I was watching kids play baseball (or whatever other sport happened to be in season), all was right with the world.  Everything was simple, manageable, and understandable.  Maybe it was the simplicity of the game, or the families there to cheer, or the kids just out to have fun.  Whatever it was, it worked.  (It's also helped me to work...over the years I've had jobs coaching kids in many sports....soccer, baseball, tennis, hockey, skiing, etc. :)  So naturally, when youth sports takes over ESPN, it's something I want to watch.  It makes me feel good.

This time around it's gotten me to thinking...many of these kids' dads are out there on the field with them as coaches.  Those parents that aren't coaches are there in the stands watching, even though it's meant traveling across the country or around the world to do so.  The parents talk about the sacrifices they've made....the long hours and many miles getting their kids to practices, games, and tournaments....making sure the kids have the gear they need....paying team dues as well as paying for extra coaching and training....working fundraisers for the team...showing up to cheer at every game, etc.  It got me wondering....is having involved parents a pre-requisite for success in sports?  Obviously no parent is going to be interviewed on tv and say "meh...I don't do much.  I show up now and then," and if there is a parent that's not there they're obviously not the one that's going to be interviewed.  But I've noticed that with almost every batter that comes up, the camera shows the parents and family members, happily adorned in the team's colors, holding big handmade signs.

This definitely isn't just a baseball thing, or just a little league thing either.  I had the same sort of thoughts during the olympics with the repeated "salute to mom" commercials of athletes thanking their moms for all the behind the scenes work they did.  (Though not their dads...which bothered me...but that's a topic for another post! lol).  In both cases, Olympics and little league, they also generally talk about the years and years of work starting from when the athlete was very young.  They talk about joining their first sports team when they were 4 or 5.  When I was that age I was learning the safest hiding places in my house, and how to read whether or not dad was drunk.  Sports were the furthest thing from my mind!

Of course there's a big range between "hiding from drunk dad" and expensive private coaching.  I know not all kids have what the kids on tv are talking about, even though it sometimes seems that way. Also, I did get to play sports sometimes as a kid.  I was a natural athlete, so I got to join school teams a few times.  I just know that had I ever gotten on a team good enough to travel to another state for a tournament, my mom likely would've pulled me off right then and there, not wanting to put in the money or the work to help me get there.  That's just the way my family was.

It's not that I think I would've been some kind of amazing professional athlete had my parents been different.  No matter who I had been raised by, I don't see myself as someone having that level of drive and commitment.  (Not to mention, the sport I loved was football, and no matter who my parents had been I doubt there was a team anywhere that would've taken me!).  But it's just one of those things that makes me wonder.  It makes me wonder who I would've been had my parents been different....had my childhood been different.

Wondering about those things for too long is not a safe place for me to go.  I have to be careful not to drift too far that way because the answers will never be known.  I am who I am.  I am me.  I only have this one life, and it's entirely possible that what I think would've been a better life for me growing up could've led to somewhere much worse.  After all, as much as times have sucked here and there, life is pretty good now.  I still struggle, but I wouldn't want to give it up.  Anymore I can't think of anyone I'd want to trade with, so there's no reason to think of trying to trade in my past.  (Wow...I don't think I've ever said that "out loud"....that there's no one I would want to trade with...but it's actually true.  There's really no one else I'd rather be today than me. :)

I guess what this all comes down to is it's just one more thing to grieve.  My life has a lot of grief in it right now.  So much that I'm still sometimes crying for no reason.  (Well, I guess there is a reason, but it seems to come out of nowhere).  Mostly I'm grieving for the big things...loss of innocence, loss of a happy childhood, loss of safety and security, loss of the ability to trust people and have genuine relationships, loss of a family I feel like I can fall back on...  It's getting better.  I'm learning to accept these losses.  But every now and then these little things jump up from out of nowhere and they get to me.  They're silly things.  I get that.  I know the world is not going to end because my mom almost never came to sports games I played...and if she did she was sitting in the back looking bored not up front cheering.  I know that's not earth-shattering.  But sometimes the little things hit the hardest.  And it's one more reminder of the cohesive family I wanted more than anything but didn't have.

I did a little reading online today...and came across a website of people (adults) talking about how badly they want a team of theirs....their kids...to go to the little league world series.  I realized then, if I ever have kids (which I do still plan to....I really could care less if they ever go to any kind of championship of anything...but I can't wait to be in the front row of whatever they decide to do.  That seriously is a dream of mine...to be the coach...or whatever they'll let me be...of some team my kid is on and get to share that with them.  It's just a family moment I really really want.  And no, it doesn't have to be sports, because if I say I want it to be sports that pretty much guarantees my kid will hate sports and be in to chess or something like that, right? lol  It's just a connection I wish I'd had...and one I'm excited to one day give to kids of my own.

It's also one more little thing that's a bit scary when I think about it.  I have yet to find a high-level athlete who didn't start playing their sport when they were very young (except for a few select sports that seem to cater a bit more towards "older" athletes).  So this is just one more example of where decisions made for kids when they're very young, or how even the youngest of kids are raised, can have a HUGE impact on where they end up as adults.  You'd think that when they're that young it doesn't matter too much, but once again you just never know when that moment is going to be that's going to shape the future.  As someone who has coached, I could've been a part of it for a kid and not even known.  I just hope my impact was a positive one. :)

Before I finish up with Little League related stuff I just gotta share one more thing.  A speech from the best coach ever.  Seriously.  After hearing this I want to find a way to nominate this guy for president!  Honestly he was so incredible that when the game ended and his team was eliminated, rather than showing the other team celebrating their win and getting to move on in the tournament...the cameras went straight to this guy to hear this talk.  I've never seen that before in any televised sports events but this speech was worth it.


Coach Belisle for president!  Or at the very least I need to hire him as my life coach! lol


I'm grateful that even in the midst of the worst chaos of my life I've been able to find something somewhere that brings me comfort....even if it seems weird to the outside world.  And frankly, the fact that it's always been as simple as eating a burger at a little league field, even when I can barely eat or think or function otherwise...is a pretty sweet deal for me!  Yay for simple things to bring comfort!  If it's simple, it's always available in one way or another.

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