Growing up, I had never heard of t-ball. Later, as a mother of twins, people were asking if I was going to put them in t-ball and if I did, would they be on the same team. Uhhhh, T-ball whut? What’s that? The mom from work asking me about it looked at me like I had two heads when I asked what t-ball was (cuz twins probably.) Look, when I was growing up we had little league. Balls flying at your face. Keeping score. Hit the ball or hit the walk of shame back to the dugout. Ya know, youth sports.
I was baffled, what’s the point of t-ball? Well, I was told, to teach them baseball skills without the threat of injury (I guess no Tommy John surgery in t-ball so there’s that) and without the uber competition that comes in youth sports. Ummmmm, no competition? What’s the point? (Shocking, I know.)
Ya know what ISN’T in my boxes of childhood? A participation trophy or medal. Not one. I have many ribbons from swimming (I liked the red, 2nd place ribbon better than the blue one’s so I’d trade with my friends. My mom would run around the meets and have to retrieve my first place ribbons. Sorry mom.) But I have no medals. Ya know why? Cuz only at the AAU finals were medals given and ONLY to the top three spots and I didn’t get that far.
I actually also don’t have any softball trophies or medals even though I played on some kick ass traveling teams. Cuz only first place got those, second place got a team plaque. Probably sitting in some landfill somewhere ever since our coach’s wife made him throw it out. I won some kind of State contest for band playing an Oboe solo, even though I hated being in band, I was kind of proud of that. No trophy though, just my name on a list. My parents were proud though, that was nice.
I was a teenager when I was an assistant coach for a girls Little League team, the White Sox (our colors were yellow and white just like the Bad News Bears which remains one of my all time favorite sports movies. It’s on Netflix now, check it.) The head coach was gruff and knew how to coach little girls, it was a great experience for me. He never said, “Good job” if it wasn’t. He never said, “Good try” if a ball was missed. He’d tell the player what they needed to do different next time to be successful and then many times, the player would do it and be happy with the success. Coach never took credit, he just taught them how to play ball. Girls never whined (not on our team anyway, something I quickly adopted. I don’t coach whiners and I don’t like competing with whiners, especially women. Grow up and STFU or get off the field or platform. Sorry I’m not sorry.)
I remember when Oz dabbled in wrestling for a season. He really wanted a trophy. But those went to the kids who won and even in spite of his being at least one and a half times bigger than any kid he ever faced, he didn’t have the eye of the tiger and couldn’t care or less about winning. Can he still have a Snickers bar after? That’s the shit he worried about (yes, he still got a Snickers bar after.)
But for the past 20-30 years, t-ball has taken place of little league (yes, I know it’s still around. I’ve watched the LLWS. Some coaches cheat to get their teams into the playoffs, it’s opposite of t-ball. I know.) Participation trophies. Not keeping score. Everybody wins. You will be empowered for just showing up. Dancing trophies as big as your kid, all you have to do is pay about a grand a year in costumes and entry fee’s and your little ballerina can too have a life sized trophy for twerking on stage. Congrats.
For 20-30 years we’ve been drilling into our children (well, not mine) that all they have to do to succeed is show up. Just show up. Well, guess what mommies, your babies are now 30 years old and still living at home because the maximum they give is to just “show up” and real world bosses fire them for not putting in effort worthy of, oh I dunno, A FUCKING PAYCHECK! As my adorable hubby was growing up, he was constantly reminded of how much bigger he is than the rest of the children so he has to be more gentle so he doesn’t hurt anyone. SRSLY. We’ve been telling Oz since day one (srsly, from day one he’s had the back of a lineman) to use his size to his advantage. ALWAYS. I’d rather stand on the shoreline and fight the tide than hold back a big, strong child. Ya know who THEY grow up to be? Big, strong adults who want things in life and push hard in hopes to achieve them.
Teaching children not to keep score turns them into adults who think score isn’t kept. Sorry, it is. As it should be. Teaching kids that they don’t have to work for success turns them into adults who find it offensive that they have to work. Srsly. I find THAT offensive. You know what the participation trophy in life is as an adult? Mom making you a Hot Pocket while you play video games. True story. Ya know what a first place trophy looks like as an adult? A roof over your head; maybe an automobile to drive around; a steady (and even increasing if you’re good) paycheck every couple of weeks, food on your table. A table to put food on.
America has become the land of the offended pussies. Mommy said mean words are mean and didn’t teach me how to live in the real world and take risks and not to be scared when life’s strikes come flying at my face. My t-ball coach said I was awesome instead of my little league coach yelling at me to stop backing away from a left field fly or he sits my ass on the bench for the rest of the game. So now when my boss talks to me in a stern voice I get scared and don’t wanna work anymore.
I once went an entire softball season without one “atta girl” and didn’t think twice about it. I knew when I did good. I knew when I fucked up. The coach knew I knew and didn’t feel the need to blow sunshine or lava towards my way. We won when we played together and made adjustments that he said to make. We lost when we lost. No whining, get better for next time. He did buy us ice cream once though. Like, real ice cream not that DQ soft serve shit. Two ginormous hard scoops of mint chocolate chip (my favorite.)
This is a picture of my two favorite medals from 2014 (I spilled Gorilla Glue on my bench and don’t want to rip it off and leave a hole. Mybad.) They are third place medals. Yes, I had contests where I took first or second and I’m pleased I did and thankful for the fun prizes and medals too. But these 3rd place medals represent me working as hard as I could and doing well in an open field. That means something to me. It’d mean more this year if I upped those places too. Heh.
3rd place may be seen as a failure by some. I would contend by those who never learned to fail. Another thing t-ball takes away from us, the ability to accept failure; learn from it, and move the fuck on. As funny as the “if you ain’t first you’re last” slogan is, it’s not true. Sometimes second or third or even lower is where you end up and to take away all of your hard work because you didn’t get first is pre-school.
Probably most importantly, the thing t-ball steals from children is the ability to remember words of wisdom from real coaches. The ones that, at the time, may have embarrassed you or made you feel bad but you quickly realize that they’re spot on and you suddenly get better when you heed them. The current t-ball generation believes that THEY are the one’s who deserve all of the credit. That THEY don’t need coaching or supervision or advice because, ya know, mommy told them that they’re something special and they can do anything THEY set their mind too. Uhhhhh ya, but you can’t. Not on your own and those who fail to credit others who help them along the way are selfish brats who I don’t want to know. There are people who are no longer in my life (and I’m thankful for that) who have had significant impacts to my growth and if the subject comes up, I’ll give credit where credit is due. No matter how I may feel about them today. Because I played little league and didn’t have sunshine blown up my ass on the t-ball field when I was little.
Listen Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.