Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why I let me son quit playing a sport he loves

From about as early as I can remember I played sports. When I was really little I remember doing tap, ballet and then even gymnastics and baton twirling. Nothing really fit for me until I started playing softball. I started playing when I was about 7 until I was probably 11 or so. I remember playing ball with the boys in my neighborhood and generally just loving the game. Playing softball helped me make friends and kept me active outside of school.

When Alvin took an interest in baseball I was hopeful. My son who knew the rules of the game at 6 years old and could tell you who a player was simply by watching him throw had found the game I loved when I was a kid.

The first year of tee-ball was a success. While Alvin had a hard time at first watching him learn to love the game made it all worth it.

This year when the time came to register I was concerned. Due to his age he would be moving up to coach-pitch baseball. I was concerned about the increased skill it would take for him to keep up and also worried about the social aspect. These kids would talk more and expect Alvin to carry on conversations with them. Even with all our concerns we agreed tp let him play understanding that we would once again be put in the position to advocate for our son to be able to do the same things the other kids did so easily.

The first few practices started out great. Alvin picked up hitting the ball well and did the conditioning (stretching, drills and warm-up running) with only a little guidance. He loved playing all the positions he could and had even come to understand that he wasn't allowed to play catcher because of his "C" on his head.

Then things started to change. The kids started to catch on that he was different. The coaches brought out different pitching equipment and Alvin couldn't keep up with the changes. He failed to hit a ball in the rest of the practices and never in a game. I started to see the kid that used to love playing the game doing everything he could to get in trouble to not go. One day he started acting up and told me that now he couldn't go to his game because he was in trouble.

This was the clue that something was up. It all boiled over in the last game he played before we removed him from the team. Close to the end of the game on a rainy and dreary day Alvin was once again up to bat when he was hit in the hand by a pitch in the hand. He immediately got upset and prepared to take his base when he was told not to. In coach pitch rules the player simply gets another try and does not get to take his base. He was crying and the other kids thought it was funny.

Alvin was so confused and I could see it in his face. He was crying and just wanted to leave.

It was that day that we made the decision to let him quit.

The kids picked on him at times and the only thing he was learning was how to avoid being bullied. That night I got in touch with the Monroe YMCA and started to make a change.

The next few weeks of starting a new program were rough. Things had drastically changed. There were now many people on the field and the social aspect was frightening to say the least. We met so many great volunteers during the season and by the end Alvin would get to the field early and immediately start pitching.

The last game was the where it all paid off. Alvin had been through a lot and in the past month and a half not been able to hit a ball on his own. Finally in the last game Alvin got not only one, but 2 hits by himself. His confidence was back and the look on the volunteers faces was wonderful. At that point all of the volunteers had heard his story and knew what he had been through. He and all of the other kids were out there to have fun and do their best.

The moral of the story hit home though with Alvin's sister Elliot. Having to explain to her why Alvin was quitting was tough. We don't believe in letting either of them quit just because something is difficult. The goal is to do your best (and with sports at their age) have fun doing it. At 4.5 Elliot learned another hard lesson as well. Not everyone is going to accept her brother or kids like her brother the way we do. She learned that we will fight for all of them when the time comes.

So where are we now? The YMCA has a few other adaptive sports coming up such as bowling and basketball. Top Soccer should also start in the fall as well.

For us, things have changed. We always had hoped Alvin could play "normal" or "mainstream" sports. At this point we know that just isn't going to happen. While he continues to make great strides socially and physically he just isn't ready yet. So for now we let ourselves grieve at the new discovery and we move on. We move back to acceptance and letting our goofy kid learn to be himself and have a great time doing it.

1 comment:

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