It started with a slight dig toward the manager. After a win where my son played the minimum requirement, I posted on my Facebook page: Nice victory! Hats off to the regular players! Go team! The post included a photo of the scoreboard, which read Sharks 12 – Stripes 6. Within a minute of the post, my wife texted me: Stop!
Not only did I not stop, my posts became more direct as the season went on. After a game where my son only played right field, I posted: I guess all positions are important, even the one no one wants to play. #pickingdaisies.
One game, our team was down a few players because of vacations. We only had eleven, and guess who was one of the two to not start? Yep, my son. I was furious, especially because I knew Ben was a better player than the kids who started at right field and second base. After the game, which we lost and the second baseman had three errors, I posted an idiom: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
The father of the kid who started at second called me. I didn’t know him all that well. He told me he saw my post, knew I was referring to his son, told me to get a grip on reality, and to stop using social media to air my frustrations. He hung up before I could say a word. I don’t know what I would have said to him if he had stayed on the line. What made the situation ten times worse was that Ben got a text from the second baseman. They weren’t the best of friends, but they hung out a few times. The text read: U shoulda started? LOL. Get real.
I dropped Ben off at the next practice. I waited before I pulled away. I watched a few other players look Ben’s way, and then walk in the opposite direction. After practice, the manager came to the car before Ben did. He told me he saw my recent posts, asked that I please not do that, and told me he’d be more than willing to sit with me to discuss my concerns. It was tense. I told him I’d think about it. As Ben walked toward the car, I could tell he had been crying. Before leaving, the manager said to me, “I hope we can be adults about this.” He patted Ben on the shoulder as they passed.
The next game, no parents sat next to me and my wife. Throughout all six innings, the only thing she said to me was: “You’re ruining this for Ben.”
As I looked at my son, sitting alone in the corner of the dugout while the rest of his team was cheering, I knew she was right. As I watched parents laughing and conversing with others, I also knew I was ruining it for me and my wife, too.
After the game, I asked the manager for a few minutes. I asked him what Ben needed to do to improve and be a better teammate. He told me Ben was already a good teammate, and that he just needed to practice more. He gave me some advice on mechanics at the plate and in the field – mechanics he told me he works on regularly with Ben. We went home, and went to work in the backyard – something I realized I didn’t do enough of with him.
It took a few games, but eventually other parents sat by my wife and me. I guess kids are quicker to forget and move on because in no time, Ben’s teammates cheered him on when he was up to bat. His smile returned, he improved, and even played second base a few times. After the final game, I posted on my Facebook page: Great season Sharks! We’re proud of you! Special thanks to the coaches for all of their hard work! The manager commented: Already looking forward to next season! Me, too.