My family recently sampled some seasonal excitement while on vacation—the spring swing of baseball bats.
Seated in the stands of Eddy D. Field Stadium at Pepperdine University, overlooking the beautiful coastline of Malibu, Calif., we cheered on our nephew, Nate Johnson (No. 24 on your scorecard), catcher for the Pepperdine Waves.
Those couple of games ignited our anticipation for the upcoming baseball season back home in Woodbury. My sons played catch and practiced hitting baseballs in their cousin’s custom batting cage. Meanwhile, my husband explored coaching tips and drills to practice with the kids when the Woodbury Area Baseball season begins in April.
For me, baseball season means summer is coming. It means I’ll be forced to set aside mundane household activities to sit outside, visit with friends, and watch the gleaming smiles of happy youngsters when they get a hit or catch a fly ball.
The trick can be managing the parameters of youth sports and their sometimes sneaky attempt to overtake family life.
Woodbury offers choices. Those choices entail decisions for families about what age to begin participating in developmental and/or competitive sports. The minimum age for Woodbury Area Little League developmental baseball is 5 years old. Personally, I saw little benefit to having my kids in organized sports before kindergarten.
Around third grade families can choose to have their child play with a local “in-house” team or on a travel team. Travel teams are a bit more of a commitment with higher costs and weekend tournaments in addition to regular mid-week games.
Our nephew has been captivated by baseball from a very young age, always wanting to play. In fact, my brother-in-law once told him that to be fair to the rest of their family, any extra practice time would be scheduled early in the morning. He told the boy to have his gear packed and his dad’s coffee made before 6 a.m. so they could practice and be home in time for other family activities. The boy complied with no complaints.
A child’s dedication—together with their family’s flexibility and finances—should be carefully considered before juggling a commitment beyond in-house baseball. My boys love the game. But for now, Woodbury’s in-house program still offers plenty of playing opportunity and fun for them.
We’ve tried to consider a balanced approach and parent proportionally. Meaning, if sports will ultimately be less than 90 percent of our children’s future focus, should we dedicate 90 percent of our parenting energy on sports? That’s an important but individual family decision.
Our nephew is now 21 years old and will be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft this spring. Baseball is quite obviously more than 90 percent of his life. But as a coach pointed out to him when he was a Little Leaguer: You can fill a professional baseball stadium with Little League players and maybe one will make it to the big leagues.
So keep some perspective and make choices that are best for your family. Then relax and enjoy the game.