Freestyle Friday: He Just Wanted a Happy Meal

Good morning. I promise that I’m reading the Freestyle Friday idea generators that you guys send me, and one day I’m going to answer a Plinky question, but sometimes you generate ideas in ways that you don’t even realize.

This past week, a friend shared an article to her husband’s Facebook page. (Did I say that right? If not, you know what I mean.) She shared, “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent — And What Makes a Great One“, an article based on research conducted by a high school and youth coach with over 30 years of coaching experiences.

How many of you read “youth coach with over 30 years of coaching experience” and thought, oh bless his heart? It couldn’t have been just me.

I coached my son’s 5-year-old coach pitch baseball team a couple of years ago. It was his first time to play and my first time to coach. Neither of us knew what we were doing or what to expect.

We found out in a hurry that this was not a league that eased up the learning curve. Other 5-year-old leagues in the area allowed the child, after unsuccessful attempts to hit 2 pitched balls, to put the ball on a tee and play on. In our league, it was three strikes and you’re out. Go sit down kid. Score was kept, wins and losses tallied, and all of it was posted on the website for all to see (whoever “all” might be).

It was more pressure than I signed up for, and the parents that paid close to $500 for registration, a bat, a glove, cleats, pants, a helmet and whatever else certainly deserved a better coach than me for that type of money.

After another disappointing game that saw our record fall to 1-9 or something worse, Jack asked me on the ride home, “Dad, you know what I want?”

Funny what sets you off sometimes.

“YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT?”, I screamed in response. “I WANT KIDS WHO WANT TO PLAY BASEBALL AS MUCH AS THEY WANT TO THROW DIRT AT EACH OTHER! I WANT Y’ALL SWINGING THE BAT LIKE WE DO IN PRACTICE. I WANT TO SEE YOU RUNNING HARD AROUND THE BASES.”

I was just getting started.

“WHEN WE’RE IN THE FIELD – WHICH IS FAR TOO OFTEN BY THE WAY – I WANT TO SEE SOMEONE STOP A GROUND BALL.” To add emphasis to this brilliant outburst (to a 5-year-old) I started pounding the car’s armrest with my hand at this point. “I DON’T WANT TO SEE THE BALL ROLL TO THE FENCE, BUT IF IT DOES ROLL TO THE FENCE, I DON’T WANT TO SEE SEVEN KIDS PILED UP NEXT TO THE FENCE FIGHTING FOR IT WHILE THE BASE RUNNERS MOONWALK AROUND THE BASES! THAT’S WHAT I WANT!”

Spit flying out of my mouth. I was a raving lunatic.

“WHAT IS IT YOU WANT?”, I finally asked.

“Nothing”, Jack responded.

“No, what do you want?”, I pressed.

“I was just thinking, umm, since we haven’t had dinner, maybe we could ride through McDonald’s and get a Happy Meal?”, he asked.

He was 5-years-old. He couldn’t tell me the score of the game. He really just wanted to enjoy the experience of playing baseball – as ugly as his version of baseball might have appeared to seasoned veterans like myself. That’s what I wanted for him also, but I let the score get in the way of that.

AJ McCarron, quarterback at The University of Alabama, made a comment earlier this week that “football is just a game”. It’s just a game. I suppose Bryant-Denny Stadium is a bigger stage than Bo Nelson Field, or the field your child will play on tomorrow. The game builds character and perseverance and develops teamwork and personal responsibility that help you in other areas of life – and it teaches those lessons through winning AND losing – but baseball, football, basketball…it’s just a game. Enjoy it with them!

Have a great Friday and great weekend! See you next Wednesday when we close out the Stop Wishing, Start Writing series.

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