Posted by: Kate | June 5, 2009

The Agony of Victoy, and the Thrill of Defeat

And they’re done.

For the third time this season, Emily’s softball team faced the Farmington girls, a new addition to the local league and heavily populated with girls of dubious 10-under status (when they’re comparing bra brands in the dugout and able to look me directly in the eye, I get suspicious, somehow). And for the third time this year, Emily’s team was a mere spectator to the Farmington team’s circling of the bases.

The last two times, I felt bad. I completely understand why they set the mercy rule at no more than five runs per inning, per team, because otherwise the final score might more accurately resemble that of a college football blowout. And nobody likes to see their kid lose, right? Right?

Well, no, because last night I was thrilled. Their loss was the second this week, effectively ending their double-elimination playoff run. Emily was quite verklempt at the loss – in typical Emidrama, she wailed, “When I woke up this morning, I could just see us winning the whole championship this year… I could just see it!” – and so the rest of us needed to find a way to smother the impulsive happy-dances and offer support. (Luckily, at 9, effective support can still appear in the form of a Wendy’s Frosty and some snuggles.)

Because, really? Softball is just not Emily’s sport. Her attention span makes the inevitable stints in the outfield outright painful to watch, as she picks grass, takes off her shoes to get the dirt out, looks for rainbows, swats at bugs, and generally whiles away the time until they call her back in to bat. But that same attention span prevents her from being in an infield position, because she needs that extra dozen yards to snap back alert before the ball embeds itself in her face. Batting is a bit better for her, but only sometimes… I think she got four hits all season, with two runs? Just not her deal.

And the league, oh, the league. Not my favorite, in ever so many ways. The last two years, she was in the rookie league, in which the focus was still on the mechanics of the sport. The coach pitched, a half-inning was over when each girl had batted once, and no score was kept. That worked pretty well, kept the games to about an hour, and kept Emily engaged and involved the whole time.

This year, suddenly, the pitchers are girls from the team. They try hard and do better than I can do, but, with the possible exception of the Farmington girls, they’re 9 years old and new at this. No walks are allowed; after the girl has pitched 4 balls, the coach comes out to pitch until the batter has struck out or – sometimes – hit. And everybody, everybody ended up with the coach pitching, because each pitch count ended up somewhere in the range of 7-2 before they took pity on the poor girl on the mound.

Then, to add insult to injury, they added another new rule to this league: stolen bases are allowed on a wild pitch. But, re: the prior paragraph, wild pitches happen more often then, um, tame ones.

So the pattern went something like: several balls and strikes, and then a single… which would, in the course of the next two or three pitches, stretch itself into a triple by virtue of stolen bases. The next two batters would be struck or tagged out, and the base-stealer was left stranded on third.

Or you’d get a team who knew how to bat, against a pitcher who was halfway decent, and the inning consisted of a lot of running and squealing…but Option B was rarely selected, somehow.

And so on, and so forth. The moral of the story was, the games were long, because of all of the pitching and not-hitting, and started at 6:00 with a 5:00 practice first… meaning we were out of the house at least two nights a week – school nights – from 4:30 until 8:30. Really.

So, selfishly? It was long and boring and mosquito-ridden, and it’s never easy to sit and watch your kid do something poorly for extended periods of time.

And, on the parental-dilemma side of things? Emily LOVED softball. Not the playing itself; she resisted practicing outside of game days and rarely deigned to listen to any sort of coaching from her idiotic parents. But the socializing, and the snacking in the dugout, and did I mention the socializing? Those rocked her world.

So I would sit and watch the boredom simply ooze off of her, inning after inning, and then she would get in the car and announce, “I love softball!” After a while, I was able to – gently – get her to acknowledge that it wasn’t exciting to play, and she could probably find another sport that fit better with her style (since I don’t think the league would allow me to demote her to the rookie league next year) and still socialize, but maybe enjoy, you know, the actual game, too. She was willing to think about it, but wouldn’t commit.

And last night, as the game ended, she turned her drama knob up to MAX (and trust me, it’s already set high as a normal, baseline sort of thing) and left it there.

So I’ll have to wait another day or two before celebrating the end of the season. Just to be polite.



  1. I’m old enough that girls sports only consisted of cheerleading while I was in school. Needless to say, I never qualified for the squad, not that I didn’t try.

    After an agonizing year of slowpitch, my daughter switched to fastpitch softball at age 8. She begged to play because of a friend she barely knew. As a single mom, I was not thrilled because fastpitch costs 3x as much in fees, and was mandatory travel team. Not easy to manage financially and logistically.

    She played fastpitch through high school, and even managed a couple of scholarship offers to play in college. She was never the best player on the team, but was more like a utility person who could manage competently in most positions except pitching. Mainly I’m saying this for context.

    Softball games (even fastpitch which has absolutely exhilarating moments) can be boring as hell. Traveling teams are expensive, even if you’re going to exciting places like Des Moines or Indianapolis (in our case). We parents would pray for the last out, especially if we were losing, and we’d spend lots of time in the bar at the hotel while the kids played video games or swam in the pool.

    Nothing says you have to attend every game. I attended most, and I brought my knitting. I managed to get a lot of projects done. One of the games I didn’t attend was the one, of course, that my daughter hit a homer. Mother of the Year never got to see her do it again.

    I hated the politics that inevitably occurred with every team. And I couldn’t stand the Barbie moms in their Escalades and Talbots outfits. But, one of my dearest friends today is another softball mom, whom I never would have met if not for. And now, that this part of our lives is over, we almost miss it. We make up for that with frequent happy hours.

    Our parental experience, though, pales with respect to that of the kids. If Emily loves softball, it doesn’t matter if she’s a lousy player. There will be a team that she can play on. And, if she’s playing fastpitch, in the next year or two the games will come alive, trust me!

    Even if all Emily does is ride the bench, the best thing about team sports is all the lessons learned in socialization, group dynamics, and eventually, the unfairness that is life. I think perhaps your little girl gets this on a subconscious level.

    If she loves, loves, loves softball, then playing softball is what she needs. Should she come to the realization on her own that there is another sport that’s better for her, that is the time to make the switch.

    I would highly caution against trying to mastermind or manipulate her experience within whatever system you have. I’ve seen that backfire so many times with so many parents who were determined, with the best intentions, to do so.

    Just relax and it will sort itself out. More than likely with drama. It was amazing to see my daughter who proclaimed “Softball is my LIFE!!!” one year walk away the next from virtually a full post-secondary ride (from desperate coach LOL) in favor of another path. 🙂

  2. LOL! Another reason Emily and LouLa are alike. LouLa loves socializing. She’s not very coordinated, and has no sense of competition (we had to tell her last summer that “There’s no holding hands in soccer!”). She is in dance, and seems to have a good sense of rhythm and movement, but the socializing is still the reason she likes it. She might grow out of it, or she might not.

  3. You mean the drama knob doesn’t turn down as they get older?!?!?! oh man I am so screwed!

  4. Ouch. Well, you have more forbearance than I do; I would likely have opted out after a single session. Not a baseball fan to begin with, and neither of my girls showed any inclination to play in a league, so there’s my Get Out of Jail Free card, but still. Had they wanted to, I would have been just as unimpressed, I’m sure.

  5. I’m lucky that my son has shown no interest in joining team sports, so I am spared – at least for now. I really, really don’t like stuff like that myself, so I can feel your pain by association….

  6. That is EXACTLY how my son’s baseball season went this year – except the coaches didn’t have to pitch, they had these cool little machines that threw perfect pitches. But, having to sit through player pitches was agony upon agony.

  7. I am so not looking forward to the “organized” team sports year that lay in front of me. Is Emily a swimmer? There are a lot of clubs here that start races at a young age. It has lots of social downtime and you’re really competing against yourself, to better your time and form, so maybe the drama meter wouldn’t get cranked so high?

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