Slice of Life, Chapter 16

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

My ten-year-old son faced a moral dilemma yesterday. I wished I could have done a better job of guiding him through it — maybe even told him what to do — but this was one of those moments where you let your child move forward on their own and hope for the best.

Yesterday was Little League baseball “evaluations” in which the ball players move from station to station to show how they can run, hit, pitch and catch. All the coaches mill about, like an NFL combine, and take notes for the upcoming draft day (yes, they do a draft and I feel uncomfortable about it). Last year, my son went all out, trying his very hardest at every task put in front of him. He then went to a team that struggled all year, even though he emerged as a star player (in our humble opinion).

What he really wants to do this year is to play on the team coached by a dear neighbor. That team won the entire championship. More importantly, he is a wonderful human being and mentor. Our friend wants our son, and we want him to be his coach, but our neighbor also pledges to draft any returning players from the prior year and it seems unlikely that our son (who can pitch — highly coveted) will still be in the mix when that time comes around.

So my son asked me in morning before the evaluations: “Dad, should I do bad today? So they don’t know if I am good?” What he means is that if he did poorly in the evaluations, maybe he would be still available when our neighbor has a free slot on his roster. Maybe he would slip by all of the other coaches.

My answer: “That decision is yours. If it were me, I would do my best. I’d want a coach that knew all of my talents. But I am not going to tell you what to do. You have to make that choice. I am OK with it, either way.”

I gulped inside when I said it. I want him to do his best, at all times, and not throw the game like some member of the Chicago Black Sox. It seems to me that just by thinking as he was thinking, his moral compass was coming slightly askew. Or maybe I am over-reading the situation.

Later, after the morning’s events at Smith College’s beautiful indoor track, I asked my son how he had done and if he had tried his best.

“I ran fast. I tried to get some hits. But I didn’t pitch as fast as I could have. I guess I did OK.”

So … there. Now, we wait until we hear from this year’s coach on March 26 to find out what team he is on. We all have our fingers crossed.

Peace (in growing up),


PS — Last year, as part of our ABC Movie Project, I created this digital story about the baseball season in our house and so, I figure I can share it again here, as it relates to my Slice of Life. (That’s me, in the middle, in front of the coach with the white shirt)

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

  1. Isn’t it amazing how young our children are when sports becomes so professional? I remember it well with my three children; the try-outs, the competition, the expectations for winning, the multiple games on the weekends. I liked the way you told your son what you would do, but left the choice of his behavior up to him.

  2. It is a wonderful statement of your relationship that he would ask you that question. That moral compass will tilt now and then but to know that he can come is a great thing.

  3. So what do you wish you had said?

    Sounds like you supported him in whatever he chose and put the responsibility of his actions on him so he can learn from them.

    The story also put me back to the day I was trying out for little league. I was by no means the star player and no one told me that everyone who tries out got to play so I was very nervous.

  4. Your reflection today is a classic and hit home. I have learned a lot about myself as a person while I watched and continue to watch my daughters play sports. Perhaps more than from my own athletic experiences. From their early days on “coach pitch” softball teams to my oldest as a D1 Field Hockey player (Go UMass) to watching my youngest play Special Olympics sports and all the high school sports and travel teams in between, I have pondered negative and positive coaching relationships, parents as spectators and coaches, team values, individual pride and honor, the ethics of winning, the ethics of losing, how to best support my child’s needs without butting in, and the list goes on. Great slice.

  5. You’re right…he is old enough to make his decisions and looking back, he’ll be able to be on the baseball team knowing he did his best (or what he thought was 🙂

    I’m hoping you were the person who posted about my students being the teachers…elaborating a little more here. I often (after conferencing with them) will have them share what they learn. My goal in this? By them explaining it, they own it and hopefully will be able to apply it more in their own reading, writing, math, etc. In one of our math programs, after I teach a kid a concept, such as patterns with flags and what color will he 37th flag be, when another student comes up with the same question, I send them off to that student who I just taught. It’s been one of the best tools I can tap into! Also, in one our books we read, there was a sign that said all students are teachers and all teachers are students…and isn’t that what we want for our students? That’ll they’ll always want to learn? And for ourselves?

    Thanks for reading my blog!

  6. I hope you will post again on this decision. I would love to read about the outcome. I loved your movie too! Baseball is truly the field of dreams.

  7. This is a great story, Kevin. It must have been so hard to pull back, to let your son make his own decision. I don’t think his moral compass was askew when he asked you the question. Some kids are really good at seeing all the sides of an issue, and it makes sense that he would think of the possibility of changing his level of play … I think the key part of the story is that he wanted to talk with you about it, and that you were able to give him such a considered answer.

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