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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Random Prompt#299

Random Prompt #299
Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?

    When I read the topic sentence for #299 my mind immediately jumped not to a time I spoke up, but to a time that I didn’t speak up. My middle daughter Caroline was maybe ten years old playing on a town softball team and was eternally stuck in right field. There were older girls on the team and some travel players getting a little extra work in this less competitive league including the coach’s daughter. Caroline had endured this same scenario on the previous year’s team: stuck forever in right field while the travel girls and the coach’s daughter pitched and played infield. Bored to tears at the lack of action in right field she would start to play with the dirt at the edge of the infield or would twirl around with outstretched arms like a helicopter. I would encourage her to keep her head in the game and she tried, but she was ten and stuck softball’s version of purgatory. Who could begrudge her this lack of attention? Youth sports coach, that’s who.
     Neither Caroline or I can remember if she asked the coach if she could play a position other than right field or if he just took it upon himself after she was lost in an extended daydream, but between innings in a game that they were hopelessly winning the coach, in front of her teammates, teammates parents and the whole town softball community, imitated her helicopter routine. This is a man of fifty plus years spinning around with outstretched arms telling a ten year she can’t play second base if she going spin around like a helicopter.

    Though shocked and filled with fury, as my humiliated little girl took a seat at the end of the bench all by herself, I did nothing, I was paralyzed. I’d like to say my lack of action was the result of some high mindedness, knowing it was better to show restraint rather than escalating the situation, After all, I’m  the guy who automatically pulls over and lets you pass when you’re riding my ass in your pickup truck (and it’s always some douche in a pickup truck). If you’re an ass to me at work I mostly look past it and never retaliate because I don’t want to be an ass too. I like poetry and despite the jeers of every self-styled tough guy I ever met I remain steadfast in my belief that Led Zeppelin sucks. But it wasn’t any cool Zen like state of mind that prevented me from acting. I was raging inside and wanted to kill that coach.
    But no punches or even loud voices were used to resolve the issue. It was resolved with a simple, civilized phone call. The coach remained a jerk and didn’t really apologize, but Caroline, as well as some of the other marginal players did see more time at various positions for the rest of the season and did just fine. As for me, when I think about this incident or occasionally see that coach around town I still feel rageful. My anger for that coach, maybe youth sports and the unfairness that my daughter wasn’t a better athlete is misdirected though, the real culprit in all of this is me. I could come up with a reasonable explanation for my lack of action, but could never find a way to excuse it. My little girl was humiliated and instead of protecting her and fighting for her I just stood there and let it happen without a peep, thus perpetuating the cycle of fear and humiliation I also endured as a kid. Beyond the diminished respect from Caroline, a further punishment is that I will never forget or forgive myself for my lack of action or my lack of courage.

    And that’s what comes to mind when prompt #299 asks: have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Paul my son's played sports growing up. I was the coach on most of their teams. I was always cognizant of the idea that It's LITTLE LEAGUE! This is suppose to be fun. So my "philosophy" as a coach was to make sure everyone played equally. The last team of theirs that I coached was when they were 16 and playing little league baseball. I told the kids I would set the batting line-up 1-12 for the first game and it would rotate from there every game thereafter. I am certain that kid who played right field his whole life and batted last will never forget the time he got to be the lead off batter. And you know what these idiot coaches living vicariously through their children don't understand? That it's LITTLE LEAGUE! So it's not reality! There is NO strategy! In real baseball you make decisions like that because the lead off batter knows how to get on. Every run counts. The top half of the lineup will in all likelihood bat one extra time in the game and in real baseball those things matter.My goal was to help them be better players, teach them whatever I knew about the game and help them win because winning is more fun than losing but most importantly to let them have fun.I also made sure the kids had opportunities in the field as well as making sure they were safe. If a kid does not have great glove skills you can't put him at 3rd, but you can put him at 2nd. Only a few kids could catch, and not everyone can pitch. But why not put that kid in right field at 2nd or left field for one inning every game? Sometimes they surprise you and themselves and they often did. The kids looked at me kinda weird sometimes, like I didn't know what I was doing, but they stayed with me. They had fun. The bench chemistry grew and you know what happened? When the kid from right field batted lead off in a "big" spot the kids on the bench were never more into the game, cheering that kid on to succeed. The kids got it. You know what else happened that year? The kids won the Cheektowaga inter-league championship.(4 little leagues with a playoff format culminating in the Crab-apple Championship game) Against all odds we beat the team that played it straight. Had lost only a game or two all year. I told the kids at the beginning of the season that if we made the playoffs I would play it straight. I would set that strategic batting line-up.(I still got that kid from right an inning at 2nd) I think the reason we won that 3-2 game with bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 7th with a pop out to the deep left field fence was because the kids had developed a chemistry and they were playing for each other. All of them. It's a proud moment in my life. For people who think I don't know what I'm doing I also am an Umpire. I've done over 800 games in my life. At the highest amateur levels of Western New York in "big" games. I KNOW baseball.
    Paul when my kids were playing basketball at the varsity level I thought their coach epitomized all that's wrong with youth sports. But like you I said nothing.I kept my mouth shut because they were not being physically harmed,loved playing basketball and were good at it. Their was nothing positive that would come from me speaking out. It would not have been fair of me to do that to them. I felt helpless. I understand your pain. But I also am aware of the fact that parents these days want their kids to grow up in a perfect world. I know that every challenge they come up against they will learn from and become stronger because of it. Caroline will have to deal with idiots like her coach in their lives like my son's did and they will be better prepared to deal with those people when they encounter them in life because of experiences they have had. And trust me when I say this, as an Umpire I have seen parents act in embarrassing ways and all they did was embarrass their kids and themselves. The restraint you showed is not only admirable but absolutely 100% appropriate.