Friday, June 5, 2009

'Tis the Season

It's summer -- and with summer comes sports.

For us, the main sport of the summer is baseball. My husband plays in two softball leagues, one son plays B-Ball (a younger equivalent of Little League) and one plays coach-pitch, a learning version where the coaches serve up the pitches and the kids field and run.

Add in some Sports Sampler -- a summer rec program that exposes the kids to track, basketball and bowling -- and a couple gym classes through summer school and you get the picture. Just today, Boy #2 was outside teaching Boy #3 how to pitch.

How do you pick the league and the sport that's right for your child?

Talk to your son. What sports is he interested in? Why? Does he like to run? Soccer might be a good option. Does he prefer individual pursuits? He might enjoy golf.

Then consider why he likes to play. Some boys play to win and can't stand the no-score policy of certain recreation leagues. (Boy #2 is like that. His team last year didn't offically keep score, so he did. In his head. Every game. ) Some boys just want to be around their friends, and that's OK too. Others like the game, but want to play for fun, not for glory.

Then try to find a team or league that matches your son's goals. Boy #2 is much happier this year, playing to win on a team that keeps score. Boy #1, on the other hand, decided not to play ball at all. He likes to play, but doesn't like the pressure of a game situation. He prefers to play pick-up games with neighborhood kids, and that's OK too.

Keep in mind your son's developmental level. That's a lesson we learned the hard way. When Boy #1 was 6-years-old, he was eligible to play on a baseball team in a nearby town. After years of watching Daddy play, he was eager to sign up.

In hindsight, it was a bad decision. That league has six- to ten-year-old boys on the same team, and it's a kid-pitch, not a coach-pitch league, meaning that ten-year-old pitchers (who are just learning to pitch) are pitching at six-year-old hitters (who are just learning to hit). Needless to say, there was not a lot of hitting -- and therefore not a lot of fielding or running. Plus, Boy #1 developed a fear of the ball (have you ever had a ten-year-old pitcher hit you with a wild ball?) that hasn't quite resolved to this day.

After two years of that (yes, two years. We're slow learners.), we learned about the local coach-pitch league. Designed for kids ages six to eight, the league gradually introduces kids to the game. The coaches pitch the ball and keep pitching until the kids hit the ball (after 10 or 12 pitches, a batting tee is brought in, if necessary). That means kids get the thrill of hitting the ball and running bases while the kids in the field get to learn how to catch and throw.

All in all, it seems a much more developmentally appropriate approach to ball. Why not let kids experience some mastery before moving them up to the next level?

When choosing a league, consider family impact as well. There's a boys' softball league about 20 minutes away that Boy #1 would probably love -- but committing to almost an hour worth of driving for each practice is more than I can handle right now.

Finding the right sport -- and the right team or league -- takes some leg work and experimentation, but it's worth it. For more on boys and sports, click here.


  1. Cody's never had any interest in team sports. He does have some coordination issues - I don't know if that has anything to do with it. He does enjoy solitary sports, though. He spent about 3 years doing 2 styles of karate, has tried fencing, and is taking an archery class this summer.

  2. My husband went through a phase where he prefered golf to softball or baseball. Part of it was because he didn't want to have to worry about the team; he just wanted to concentrate on his own performance.

    Solitary sports can also be a great choice for kids who don't want the pressue of "doing it for the team," or ones who just want to concentrate on honing their own skills.