My Love/Hate Relationship With T-Ball

When my daughter wanted to join a T-ball team, it sounded like fun.Then I discovered that I was expected to watch.

When my oldest was in kindergarten, she heard something at school about this great activity T-ball.

She wanted to play; my husband decided to coach a team. The teams were formed and we soon had a practice schedule on the fridge. This gave me the unexpected benefit of one-on-one time with my second born and when Saturday practice coincided with naptime, the luxury of an hour to myself.

Despite having to adjust the dinner schedule to accommodate this new activity, this all sounded great to me. The season lasted through the spring.

Opening day in our town is a big deal. There is a parade of teams of all ages, T-ball through “majors” which ends at the ball field where all the players and coaches are treated to hot dogs and drinks. Then there is the ceremonial first pitch and some practice innings. Again, this sounded like fun. I could go watch the parade with my two-year- old and we could play at the park for a little while.

Then the regular season began and I discovered that I was expected to come watch. Really?

I thought this was a father/daughter activity. But apparently I was wrong, so I went and sat, and got up and chased a two-year-old and sat, and watched children run from home to third and chased a toddler and looked up to see the outfielders all run in and crash into each other after a infield fly ball, and so on.

Before long, I determined that I did not like T-ball. There were many things I would rather do, many of which I did not have a special fondness for at any time before or since. But the rest of the family liked it, so off I went to the ball field each spring. As they got older and their skills increased, the games became more enjoyable to watch, at least when I wasn’t chasing a toddler instead of actually watching the game.

When we got to the point where we had three children involved in the baseball program, we realized that having only one coach in the house was going to be a problem.

My husband had successfully juggled two baseball team schedules, but a third was pushing it. Not coaching one of them was something we didn’t even consider. I never played any sort of organized sports, but I did play baseball with the neighborhood boys on my street (most times, actually in the street). I had also sat through four T-ball seasons, so I knew what to expect.

So I signed on to coach. Because I was a little concerned about being the only woman coach in the T-ball division (there were some female coaches, for the relatively new softball division for the older girls), and also because I believe that if you are going to do something you should do it well, I spent some time preparing for the season. I researched coaching techniques and how to teach basic skills (I was a purely intuitive player – no one had taught me anything). I picked my husband’s brain and worried that I was not up to the task.

I know, this is silly, it was just T-ball. Most of the kids were in it just for something to do. But I had seen how some kids later on were missing some of the basics and I wanted to actually teach them something, not just have chaos on the diamond.

One of my pet peeves was when the kids would slow down when they approached first base. (I came up with a creative solution to this. I stationed a coach a couple feet beyond the base with a sheet of stickers. If you overran the base, you got a sticker. After a few weeks, most of them had it figured out.)

This was my first experience working with a group of young children and it was eye-opening. Of course I had spent time with kids this age before, this was my third, so I knew that developmentally, these kids were all over the map.

I found that being on the field with these kids was actually a lot more fun than sitting and watching.

I know that it is easier and better to learn to do something correctly the first time, that unlearning a behavior is more difficult than learning one, and that habits are tough to break. So I tried to give them a good foundation. I had two other coaches working with me and we had about a dozen kids on the team.

We managed to teach some basic skills, and learned some ourselves (such as making sure to hold the bat when helping a young player set up at home plate, then stepping out quickly, getting hit with a bat hurts).

I found that being on the field with these kids was actually a lot more fun than sitting and watching.

The season went much like others. There was at least one moment when the entire infield went for the ball at the same time. A handful of kids ran to third instead of first. The shortstop would be looking at a bug on his shoe when the ball came his way. The outfielders would be watching passing planes or birds. Someone would actually catch a fly ball and he or she (and parents) would look shocked and then break out in a goofy grin.

In some ways it was like being out with my own kids: constantly looking around for danger, reminding them to pay attention to what they were doing and performing the occasional head count. I still see some of these kids on occasion, and a couple of them remember that season.

For the next few years, I got used to hearing Coach Kim, both on and off the ball field. Today I find that I actually miss those days.

The Surprising Numbers Behind the Decline of Kids’ Team Sports

It’s not just Little League – about half of American children don’t participate in any team sport

My kid is almost 8. She loves playing baseball – batting, catching, tagging kids out and especially running the bases.

She’s an exception to the trend of baseball’s declining popularity among kids.

Last year, for the first time, ESPN Sports Poll’s annual survey of young Americans’ 30 favorite sports players had no baseball players on the list.

Youth participation in Little League declined from 3 million in the 1990s to 2.4 million in 2012.  Around the nation, little leagues are consolidating with their neighbors.

But it’s not just baseball – about half of American children don’t participate in any team sport

With all the hand-wringing about baseball’s supposed slow pace, lack of action and conservative culture, the most surprising thing about its decline is that it isn’t alone.

In Marc Fisher’s Washington Post article about baseball’s “struggle” to connect with kids, he reports that participation in all sports has dropped by more than 9 percent nationwide over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal shared a report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association showing how specific sports have lost ground among kids aged 6 – 18:

  • participation in tackle football was down 5.4%
  • participation in soccer was down 7.1%
  • participation in baseball was down 7.2%
  • participation in basketball was down 8.3%

However, these two sports actually saw increases in youth involvement:

  • participation in ice hockey was up 64%
  • participation in lacrosse was up 158%

Meanwhile, youth are more inactive than ever.

The percentage of inactive 6-to-12-year-olds—youths involved in no physical activities over a 12-month period—rose to near 20% in 2012 from 16% in 2007, according to the SFIA/Physical Activity Council survey.

Inactive 13-to-17-year-olds rose to 19% from 17%.

 The single biggest factor in how much someone loves a sport is if they played it as a kid.

In conversation with Marc Fisher in the Washington PostRob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball says “the single biggest predictor of avidity in sports is whether you played as a kid.”

In that same conversation, Patrick Wilson, Little League’s senior vice president of operations said “We’ve seen a decline in participation over the past 12 years, 1 or 2 percent every year.” He attributed this to the fact than many parents didn’t play baseball and so are less likely to introduce it to their kids.

It seems that kids aren’t just playing less team sports because they’re doing other things – schoolwork, video games, alternative sports, social media, watching TV – they’re playing less team sports because the structure and interests of the American family are changing.

This reminds me of another study reported by NPR (How We Become Sports Fans) that found that fathers have the greatest influence when a kid chooses his or her first favorite sports team.

This is all to say, LET’S GO RED SOX.

UCLA’s Sophina DeJesus Slays Crowd with Hip-Hop Floor Routine

Sophina DeJesus whipped and nae-nae’d her way through a bumpin’ 9.925 floor routine, bringing hip hop to gymnastics and the crowd to its feet.

On the same weekend Beyoncé brought black culture to the epicenter of the Super Bowl and rocked 100 million viewers with an army of Black Panther backup dancers, Sophina DeJesus whipped and nae-nae’d her way through a bumpin’ 9.925 floor routine, bringing hip hop to gymnastics and the crowd to its feet.

The 21 year old UCLA senior loves to dance, telling the NY Times she wanted to end her senior year with a bang. The floor routine was the first of her final collegiate season. And it turns out, floor is not her best event. DeJesus was an all-American on bars.

While this is unlikely to be the sort of routine you’ll see anytime soon in international competitions (because time constraints + boring traditionalist judges), DeJesus says she plans to keep it up as long as she’s in gymnastics.

Please do! We’ll keep watching.

Source: NYTimes

Why I Let My Son Watch (Some) Sports on TV

Its Sunday afternoon. Superbowl Sunday to be exact.

My husband is in the garage laying out recycled pallet boards planning the wall he will finish off in our basement. I am working on my freelance writing while thinking about how to create a label for my lip balm made from our beeswax. My six-year-old son is watching the LA Clippers play the Miami Heat on the basement TV.

One of these things is not like the other?

While my husband and I played sports when we were young and encourage our kids to do the same, we’re not big professional or college sports fans. We may joke about your Yankees vs. Red Sox household, but I can’t remember the last time we actually watched more than 10 minutes of a baseball game. For us, sporting events are usually limited to The Olympics and the occasional play-off or World Cup game.

So it has come as a bit of a surprise to us that our son likes to watch sports on TV. It doesn’t seem to matter which sport – today was his first basketball game, but he was hugely into World Cup soccer and will watch most other sports when given the opportunity.

I will admit that some of the draw for him is just the sheer pleasure of watching TV. We’re those parents who limit screen time to Friday night movies and the occasional PBS show. So when he does get to watch TV he zones out like he’s watching the moon landing or someone has cast a spell on him that blocks out all external stimuli.

But there’s something different about watching sports. He’s not that passive zombie. Instead, he’s interacting with what he is watching and with the people who are with him, and he can re-enter the world around him more smoothly than after other screen time experiences.

Here’s what I think is going on:

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]First, he’s active.[/su_highlight]

He’s a competitive kid so he enjoys cheering on “his team” (usually whichever team is winning when he turns on the game). He moves around in his seat or stands up and jumps up and down just like the adults who are really into a game, cheering when his team scores, waving his arms as they are getting close, and grunting when they are scored upon.

Moving his body instead of sitting in a trance on the couch keeps him from zoning out completely on the screen.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Second, he’s doing math.[/su_highlight]

My son loves math and is always asking us to give him math problems to solve. When he is watching sports he is constantly talking about the score – which team is winning and by how much.

We talk with him about what it would take for the other team to catch up and he learns how many points are awarded for each kind of goal, basket, touchdown, etc.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”][su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Third, he’s learning some pretty complex rules.[/su_highlight]

He doesn’t quite understand why a soccer goal is one point but a basket is two (or sometimes three). He wants to know why the whistle is blown or what kind of penalty was called. He wants to know who we are rooting for and why, or why they wear those kinds of sneakers or cleats.

Luckily we know enough to answer most of his questions. We can sense his brain processing new information, and we hear him describing the game as it progresses using the new terms he has learned.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Lastly, he is witnessing sportsmanship (at least we hope he is) and learning that everyone loses once in a while.[/su_highlight]

Being the competitive kid that he is, he takes losing hard – whether that’s in a board game or on the baseball field. We try to point out when players help each other up after tackling each other or shake hands after a match. And when players aren’t sportsmanlike, he usually sees them get called on it. Y

You should have heard the conversations about the soccer player who bit another player during the men’s world cup; that was not ok and he knew it.

So despite my personal lack of interest in most professional sports (except for women’s soccer – cause those women rock), I don’t mind that he likes watching.

That said, we do have two parental rules of thumb (both of which were confirmed by the Superbowl that happened later the same day):

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]First, we are cautious about football.[/su_highlight]

More than enough brain injury research has informed our decision that he will never be allowed to play, so we hesitate to have him exposed too often to the sport. Yes, I understand that other sports are also dangerous and do result in concussions, but most studies still list football as the most dangerous sport (see this summary by the CDC if you’re curious) and professional leagues seem to have a long way to go in making players’ safety top priority.

In addition, the sport seems ripe for unsportsmanlike conduct and sore losers, despite the many well-intentioned players that I am sure are part of the game.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Second, we try to supervise and, when needed, intervene or distract during commercials and halftimes.[/su_highlight]

Why so much sex, beer, and violence has to go with sports is a topic for another essay altogether.

To put it another way, Parental Guidance is still required.

No doubt more questions will arise as he gets older. But for now we’re appreciating his innocent one-man cheering squad and listening to him enthusiastically describe his favorite play of the game, even if we’re sitting right next to him.

Who knows, maybe he’ll rub off on us.

Afghan Boy Wearing Plastic Bag Messi Jersey Will Meet His Hero

The five year old Afghan boy who stole the Internet’s heart last month wearing a Lionel Messi jersey fashioned from a plastic bag will meet his hero.

A photo of five year old Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi wearing a makeshift Leo Messi jersey fashioned out of plastic bag blew up on social media last month, melting icy hearts across the globe. Now the boy could meet his hero.

According to Murtaza’s 15 year old brother, Homayoun, the little boy found the plastic bag and begged his older bro to make him a Messi jersey.

The brother made the shirt, snapped the photo, and put it up on social media where it caught the attention of the world, quickly making its way to Messi himself.

The five year old told news outlet Al Jazeera, “I love Messi and football. I will meet him one day.”

Looks like “one day” could come very soon. The Afghan Football Federation (AFF) and Messi’s charitable foundation both confirmed that they are helping arrange a meet-up between Murtaza and his hero.

The meet-up was celebrated by Messi fans on his fan club’s Twitter feed:

Murtaza’s father says he wants his son, “…to bring pride to the country and play in the international football matches one day.”

The AFF said they intend to help Murtaza train to play on Afghanistan’s national football team.

Particularly in the war-torn country of Afghanistan, we can safely hazard this is a particularly hopeful moment for Murtaza and his family.

Here’s looking at you, kid!

Source: Al Jazeera

Ashima Shiraishi: Rock-climbing Girl Wonder

Ashima Shiraishi is rocking the world. Of rockclimbing, that is. The New York native is widely regarded as the best female climber in the world. And she’s only 14.

Ashima Shiraishi’s Twitter bio (@ashimashiraishi) says simply, “I like chocolate and sour candy” giving away nothing of how this 14-year old girl wonder has become rock climbing’s tour de force.

Regarded by many as the best female rock climber in the world, Ashima is straight outta Manhattan. You know, that flat NYC island borough with the big park? That’s where Ashima got her start.

Born to older parents self-identified in this New Yorker piece as artists — not athletes — they had an idea for their first and only child.

[su_quote]When Ashima was born, I have an idea for her,” Tsuya said. “She grow up, create things, and make people happy. It came true. Now kids want to be like Ashima.[/su_quote]

Why do kids want to be like Ashima? Because she’s badass, that’s why.

[su_quote]In August, Ashima won gold medals in bouldering and sport climbing in the 15-and-under bracket of the world championships in Arco, Italy. She was the only climber, of any age, to complete the four bouldering problems, and she completed three of them on her first try.   – New York Times[/su_quote]

If you’re looking for role models to share with your kids, and worthy content to spend time watching together, take a look at this New Yorker video about why she climbs.

Or this Vice Sports video of her mad rock skills, complete with back story:

There’s also this — Ashima’s TedxTeenTalk:

Who run the world? Girls.

Like Ashima.

Source: The New Yorker, Vice Sports, NY Times


So, You’re a Pats Fan, But Your Kid Likes The Jets…

My son is just beginning to understand what happens on Sunday afternoons at our house.

From about 1 pm to 7:30 pm, the day is spent clogging arteries on the couch in between bathroom and occasional honey-do breaks. (That’s not to say that the day isn’t entirely unproductive; before kickoff we’re up and at it doing stuff that needs to be done for a guilt-free afternoon.)

We’re a Patriots family. We’ve got the gear, and we wear it proudly. Our enthusiasm is backed up by the fact that we live in New England. Everywhere we go, we’re presented with Patriots gear reinforcing our fandom. Our son sees the Patriots all around him, and sees us rooting for them. My best guess is that he will end up a Pats fan.  

Now, of course, he can root for any team he wants, but it makes me think about what made me a Pats fan.

I didn’t grow up in New England.  I grew up in Upstate NY, so being a Patriots fan is okay with the proximity to New England, but that’s not the reason I’m a fan.

It all started in 1985 when the Patriots were headed to the Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears.  That year the Bears were unstoppable with a 15-1 regular season record and a roster full of future hall of fame guys like Mike Singletary, Jim McMahon, Walter Payton, and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

These guys were marketing gold. They were willing to do anything for publicity. Remember, this was the 80’s, and nothing was off limits. They even made a wildly popular and very bad rap video.

The Bears were being gigantic clowns all over the media, but they were huge favorites to beat the Patriots. All of the bravado and media golden boy stuff pissed me off.  I was old enough to know that the Patriots had to be a good team to get to the Super Bowl, but all anyone talked about was the Bears and how the Patriots didn’t have a chance.  

The Patriots, on the other hand, were humble, understated, and had great players that nobody was talking about like Tony Eason, Mosi Tatupu, Irving Fryar, and Andre Tippett.  I fell in love with the underdogs, and was hoping the Patriots would pull out a huge upset to shut up the loudmouths.  

That didn’t happen. They were utterly dominated in a 46-10 trouncing. I’ve been a die-hard Patriots fan ever since.

So, when it comes time for my son to choose the team he wants to root for, I think it would be great if he becomes a Patriots fan. But he doesn’t need to be one by default.  

In fact, it might be great if he picks another team. I’m going to talk to him about what it means to create a connection with a team that’s deeper than geography. I just don’t want him to settle on a team because it’s the easiest choice.

It’s one more thing to look forward to: epic father-son smack-talk sessions (especially if he picks another AFC team.)

Just please, not the Jets.

5 new links to share with your curious kids

Share awesome, fun links with your kids curated by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational facts, videos, photos and jokes for curious kids, parents and educators.

Week of May 22, 2015

slow motion sports

Experience extreme sports like you’ve never seen them before – in extreme slow motion! Watch striking footage of parkour, gymnastics, skateboarding and motocross on Today Box.


Should we eat bugs? Learn about bug consumption around the world in this animated video from TED-ED. Yum!


The streets of Cologne, Germany come alive at night with light paintings in this short film.


Take a peek at the first 21 days of a bee’s life in this National Geographic timelapse video.

Terry Im

Learn how to beatbox with Terry Im, a favorite from the Today Box music archives.

View over 1,000 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

Athletes prefer that parents stay quiet during their games

baseballToday on Motherlode KJ Dell’Antonia gives a shout out to coach Mike Matheny’s new book, The Matheny Manifesto for the benefit of “every parent who will be sitting on the sidelines of any sport this spring.”

Matheny’s advice? “Mostly, during the game, do whatever you could just to take yourself out of the picture. The kids don’t necessarily need you to be yelling words of encouragement at the top of your lungs.”

This is partly based on studies of athletes about what they want their parents to do at their games. Their overwhelming answer? Absolutely nothing besides watching.

What do you think?

Read the full post at

What you need to know about coaching your kids Part 2

Practical advice from dad coach Justin Martin on coaching your children.

I started coaching my kids three years ago. One son is seven, and the other will be five next year (maybe I’ll get the opportunity to coach my youngest next season).  

To recap my last entry: before volunteering to coach your child, make sure to ask your kid permission to coach them. Be clear that you have their approval before you agree to coach. If they agree, do your best to clearly outline that relationship.

Have a conversation to explain that when you’re home, you’re the parent. When you’re on the field, at the rink, or on the pitch, you’re coach. Make sure your kid understands the difference.

By doing this, you’re arming yourself with ammunition that you and you child will both need when the line between coach and parent starts to blur.  By clearly outlining this difference you now have total control on the bench and at home (“at home” is probably wishful thinking).

When I’m at the rink, on the field or on the court I’m your coach, NOT your dad.  A useful explanation is:

“There are 10 kids on your team. If I treat you differently then I treat the other 9 players this will hinder my ability to coach and educate these kids, because  they’ll think I’m playing favorites. “   

Or you can say, “All of your teammates need to know that I’m here to help them as much as I’m there to help you.”

Or, you can always try “because I said so.”  Good luck with that one.

Again, this is a two-way street. Your child must be on board for this adventure. If he or she is waffling, it might be good to find  a different way to take part in your kid’s life. 

I caution you be careful when times get tough on the bench or in the locker room and your kid uses excuses and whines instead of acting as a coachable tough athlete.

When sports for that day are completed, let them know that at home, or in the car ride on the way home, you’re their parent. You can talk as parent and son, or coach and pupil. Just be clear which voice you’re speaking from.

Another simple but critical reminder for those of you that have a significant other in your life: don’t be a dumbass by forgetting to get their consent to to his experience.

As coach you’ll be in charge of taking care of an entire team. Your better half needs to understand and accept that you may be checked out all weekend in order to deal with your team when games or tournaments begin.

Once you commit, these jobs and organizational moments will be your responsibility. Make sure the person holding the bag at home agrees that this is a great use of your time, and a great way to spend more time with your kid or kids. 

Actually, maybe that is step one, before you even ask your kid if they want you to coach. If nothing else, you’ll always have the “honey I asked if I could coach and you said yes” card to use.

Next up: the issues I dealt with when I started coaching that made me set this groundwork. (You have no idea.) Oh, I also write about whether you should coach your two year old – Or NOT!