Parent Confessions... I Was a Poor Sport and So Was My Kid

Over the years, Little League has received stories from parents throughout the world, reflecting on their influence, their behavior and how they handled themselves during the career of their Little Leaguer. While a vast majority of our parents and guardians are extremely positive role models, we can all learn from select stories some have chosen to tell. 

It was the bottom of the 6th, score tied, my son’s team in the field. He was playing third base. As always, he was intense, as he led the team in chatter. The count was 0-2. The pitcher had pretty good heat, and we all thought, including my 12-year-old son, that he’d throw his typical fastball, and send the game into extras. For whatever reason, though, the normal glove-popping fastball we all expected didn’t come. The pitcher took something off the throw, and in a flash, the game was over. Before the ball even cleared the fence, the pitcher squatted, buried his head between his knees, and folded his arms on top of his ball cap. That’s when I saw my son, jaw clenched, arms crossed, standing near third base. Over the joyous screams from the crowd, I watched as my son yelled at the pitcher, who was still on the mound, “That was a stupid pitch!” 

Then, with the crowd still cheering, the opposing player who had just hit the homer, got to third. He was smiling from ear to ear. As he slapped the third base coach’s hand, my son turned toward him, and, I’d find out later, said, “That was all luck!” 

Before you draw any further negative conclusions about my son, you should know that his behavior is all my fault. I was a win-at-all-costs type of person, especially as a kid, which definitely spilled over into early parenthood. I never handled “losing” well, anything from baseball to checkers. I was a brat and a poor sport. Growing up, I had good coaches, but my dad was like me. “Second place is for losers,” he’d say. I used to say the same thing to my son. I’d push and push him, and made him strive for perfection, which is so wrong because it is unattainable, especially in baseball or softball where the sport is mostly about “failing”. I instilled in him the NEED to get A’s in school and W’s between the white lines without ever teaching him how to react if he didn’t come out on top. I only told him he had to work harder, and achieve achieve achieve. I did tell him that in defeat, he should shake the other person’s hand, but I never told him why it was important to “lose” graciously. 

After some very challenging personal struggles, AND some personal growth, that extreme competitiveness and sourness in me died down, but that was only after my son stopped playing organized sports. I look back on those times when my son played, and now wonder even when he won, did he have fun? I wish I could rewind time. I wish I didn’t push him so much. I wish I would have just let him be a kid, and experience the very good lessons in both “winning” and “losing”.