Tag Archives: Sports

Guest Post: Little League Sports as a Dad and Coach

Larry Bernstein is a high school English teacher and freelance writer. His hobbies include writing, reading, and sports. He and his family live in North Jersey. He blogs at memyselfandkids.com.

Yesterday Larry ran my post on his blog. It was about my experiences sitting in the stands watching my kids play sports through the years. You can visit his site to read that post, I Can’t Handle the Little League Sidelines. Larry is having a different experience this season. Read on.

This past weekend was the big game. It was opening day of my 10-year-old’s first season of Little League Baseball. And it was opening day for me as a coach.

Yup, just another day on the calendar. Nope!


My son, BR, came to enjoy baseball later than many kids. His occupational therapy issues leave him less coordinated than some others. His tolerance for not being good at something is not high.

In the middle of the 2012 season, he began showing interest in baseball. By last year, he was a certified fanatic. His interest, however, centered on statistics and highlights rather than playing.

When it came time for Little League sign-ups a couple months back, he decided he wanted to play. I was happy for his interest.  The league he was joining was perfect for a child just getting into baseball. It’s softball, coaches pitch, everyone bats, and excessive competition is de-emphasized.

Since deciding he wanted to join the league, BR has been asking to play baseball all the time.

He and I have worked on fielding. And I have fed BR instructions: step into the throw, stay down on the ball, get your body in front of the ball, use your glove, etc. Side note: The strings on my baseball glove, which I have had since I was about 12, have come apart.

He and I have worked on hitting. And I have fed BR instructions: eyes up, stride forward, bat off your shoulder, swing hard, etc.

This excessive practice time has led to some arguments between us. There have been some tears and periodic yelling. However, for the most part BR and I have been on the same page. Both of us have the same goal: Help BR become a better and more confident player.

And we have had success. BR has taken the instructions and done his best to implement the changes. His improvement is clear to anyone who has been paying attention.

More importantly the extra time together has helped us to bond.

That’s one victory before the season even started.

When a friend of mine asked me to coach with him, I was reluctant. Yes, I know the game. Yes, I like teaching. However, I wanted to focus on BR. My wife brought up my competitiveness. “Are you sure you can be calm?”

Sports bring out competitiveness in me like nothing else does. As the 4th son in a sports crazed family, I liked to blame the nurturing process.

Anyway, along with BR’s performance, I now had something else to worry about as opening day approached.


Well, we are now post opening day.  And the results are in.

BR batted 7th and went 3 for 4. He hit the ball well each time. He knocked in some runs and scored a couple of runs as well.

In the field, BR played pitcher’s helper. He was involved in a number of plays in the field. He stopped most of the balls hit at him and threw some runners out at first.

Another victory.

I cheered for our team, offered encouragement, gave instruction as needed, and pitched well. Okay, I was a little loud once – but nothing too crazy. I enjoyed the coaching role.

Another victory.

Lastly, a team victory. Our team, the Valley Brook Veterinary Tigers, won 15-7. Every player on the team had at least one hit.

We at Me, Myself, and Kids are liking Little League.

Larry Bernstein

Larry and BR, courtesy of Larry Bernstein



Filed under Guest Post

Guest Posting Today: Come Visit!

I’m over at Larry Bernstein’s blog, Me, Myself, and Kids, today talking about the sidelines. I’ve been through many seasons of watching my kids play baseball, soccer, and basketball, and I’ve decided I really don’t like the other parents.

As a kid, I’m pretty sure it was one of the reasons I stopped playing. I knew it even then. In fourth grade, I played softball and I wasn’t very good. When the ball was hit to my patch of centerfield grass, I ran for it and threw it in. I threw it to whoever looked most eager to get it in her glove. Only my aim sucked. My eyes looked at her outstretched hand, but the ball went six feet to the left.

I used to sit in the dugout and pray my turn wouldn’t come up. Standing at the plate, I could hear the parents in the stands. Maybe they meant for me to. “Come on, hit the ball!” They weren’t using encouraging tones. They weren’t being helpful.

As a parent, I’ve sat on the sidelines through enough games and enough sports to know that I’m not cut out for this sort of thing. Even now as an adult, I hate hearing the other parents.

Visit Me, Myself, and Kids to read more and see what else I’ve encountered. Tomorrow, come back here and read about Larry’s experience with Little League, not only as a parent, but also as a coach.


Filed under About Mom

How My Husband Raised an Eagles Fan Born in the South

Growing up, I knew no other team than the Redskins. In fact, for a long time I thought they must play the Blueskins, the Grayskins, the Greenskins. I heard a lot of words I shouldn’t have heard and I learned to stay away from the den on Sunday afternoons. There was always a lot of screaming and cheering and the beating of hands on my dad’s old recliner.

If I had a favorite team, the Redskins was it. It was all I ever knew.

My dad walked me down the aisle only because I didn’t marry a Cowboys fan. My husband-to-be rooted for the Eagles, a true born-and-bred fan from Philly who watched the team lose its only Super Bowl appearance at that point in 1981.

When we had our son in North Carolina in 2003 and Eagles onesies started rolling in, I told my husband it was just possible our son could be a Panthers fan. I wanted to plant that seed early. I didn’t want him to get his hopes up.

Through those early years, my son changed favorite teams as often as he changed his favorite color. He liked the Buccaneers, the Titans, the Jaguars, and the Vikings. He liked nearly every team but the Eagles. He’d get excited about football on Sunday afternoons. His dad put game gear on—the same shirt and socks with holes in each foot—and pumped up spirits with “E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!” My son seemed excited about the prospect of watching football, watching TV. But ten minutes in, he climbed off the couch and found something else to do.

More than anything, my husband just wanted my son to watch football with him. “Be careful what you wish for,” I told him.

My husband told my son stories of staying up late watching Eagles football when he was a kid. He told him about crying when the Eagles lost the Super Bowl. He was in third grade at the time. He told him stories about the infamous crowd and how they were known for booing Santa one year.

It wasn’t until around second grade that my son started to pay attention to football. Each year he’d watch the games a bit longer, snuggled into his dad’s arm. Every whistle blown, every flag thrown, my son asked why. Every player down, every player on the bench, my son asked why. Every player’s name, every player’s stats, my son wanted to know how was that spelled again and where is he from? How much does he weigh? What team did he play on before this one?

I’d chuckle in the corner as my husband tried to watch the game and hear the commentators and refs.

During every halftime, every commercial if he had it his way, my son grabbed a football and asked his dad to go outside. He had to play his own version of a game.

The next morning, the first thing my son would ask was the score from the late game. In the car he’d ask me how to spell a player’s name or who I thought would make it to the playoffs. Did I know it was Ronnie Brown’s birthday? My husband had created a monster.

Over time my son began to favor the Eagles, wearing the jersey his grandparents gave him to school every Monday after they played, talking trash with the other kids about their favorite teams.

Now after school, I’m the fill-in for Dad. I can throw a pretty long spiral and it’s only taken two years to get there. My son is a pretty tough coach.

He mentioned the other day that he dreamed the Eagles won the Super Bowl. He keeps up with their stats and thinks they have a good shot at the playoffs this year. Nick Foles is doing pretty well.

He still watches every game on Sunday with his dad. He still asks a million questions. He still knows everyone’s name. Now he keeps an Eagles roster. And he still goes outside to throw the ball around with his dad during breaks. He wears his lucky Eagles jersey, shorts, socks, and underwear when they play. It’s been working, knock wood.

My husband didn’t create a monster. He created a fan. And a bond.


Down here, my son gets questioned a lot about why he is an Eagles fan. The answer is always “because of my dad.”


Filed under Fatherhood, Uncategorized

Shirts vs. Skins and an Uninformed Boy

My nine-year-old son had his first basketball practice last night and everything was going well. The group of ten boys ran up and down the court with the energy of a litter of puppies. They sprinted toward the basket, took an awkward shot, and ambled away with the gangly misery of a newborn pup. Every now and then, they glued their eyes to the net, held their arms in perfect position, and sunk the ball, fists raised in victory.


(Photo credit: mvongrue)

When the coach split them into shirts and skins teams for a scrimmage, three boys yanked their shirts off without a second thought. My son and another teammate stood baffled. Shirtless? In public? From courtside, my son appeared to be bargaining with the coach. He pulled his short sleeves up onto his shoulders as if that would make enough of a distinction from the other team. The coach got a good chuckle. My son edged to the side of the court. The team waited. Like a cowering pubescent teen in a locker room, he slowly peeled his shirt off and revealed a pasty white chest that has never seen the sun. He felt exposed. During the scrimmage, instead of covering a player on the other team, he tried covering himself with his arms.

“When the coach said we were skins, I thought he meant the Redskins,” my son said later. “Then Henry ripped his shirt off and I figured it out.” My kid had never heard of such a thing. And why would he? Growing up in sports where kids practice with flags or scrimmage vests to distinguish teams, no one uses shirts versus skins anymore. At the pool, I’ve always made him wear a rash guard to protect him from the sun. He doesn’t go shirtless in public.

My husband said they used to play shirts versus skins at school. My son’s jaw dropped at the thought. An image of all the boys in his P.E. class praying they didn’t get put on the skins team must have been flashing through his mind.

The truth always comes out though. My son goes bare-chested at home. It’s not like he’s uncomfortable without his shirt. So what’s the real reason behind the embarrassment? He was afraid a bunch of girls on the other side of the sports complex would see him shirtless.

That will change. One day, he’ll hope they do.


Filed under Boy Stories

The Tough Job of Being an Olympics Spectator

I find it ironic that I sit in front of the TV every night for hours, much longer than normal, indulging in a fattening treat and watching athletes give it their best. As I veg, muscular swimmers propel lean bodies through a pool ten times the length I have the energy to cross. As I stuff my face with evening snacks, flexible gymnasts contort themselves in more ways on a balance beam than I can getting comfortable in my corner of the cushy couch. Just seeing the fluid pace of the rowers makes my thighs ache. They deserve a good rubbing for the stiffness they get from long periods of sitting in one position on the sofa.

Meanwhile, my daughter tries to nail a perfect toe to head combination on her belly every night before bed, nearly landing in tears when she doesn’t make the cut. Her daddy gently coaches, “Practice.”

And the kids have found inspiration in a pile of beanbags and our couch, which is off-limits for mid-air flips. Though my son seems to be getting pretty good at a single tuck when he thinks I’m not looking.

Frankly, my behind is sore. I’m tired from staying up so late. These amazing athletes put me to shame. I need to get up and do something. I get too emotional watching these young people’s dreams soar or crash. And my kids keep getting too many crazy ideas. I think they’re trying to get new sports into the Olympic Games. Today they tried to walk a tightrope—lengths of yarn tied from doorknob to doorknob. I didn’t stick around to see the outcome, which just proves I’m too stinking tired to do my mothering job properly.

I’m starting to fade. The Olympics exhaust me. I don’t have the stamina to even be a spectator. Looks like I better start training for Rio. My kids already are.


Filed under Everyday Life

Tales From the Gridiron

I’ve never been a big sports fan. I’ve never been a star player. I don’t like watching sports on TV. I’m not the person to talk to about sports. Period. Having a son has forced me to make some changes. For one, whether I like it or not—and I don’t—my son includes me in one-sided conversations about plays, players, stats, the spelling of their names.

“Mom, tomorrow is Ronnie Brown’s birthday.”

“Who is Rodney Brown?” I ask. I don’t recall this kid from his class, but that’s nice that my son remembers.

“No, Ronnie Brown. He plays on the Eagles.”

Of course.

“Mom, who do you think will be in the Super Bowl this year?”

“Hmm, haven’t a clue,” I say. So many questions all the time. He’s good at that. (You can read more about that here.)

My son demonstrates the play-by-play of a game, then rewinds in case I missed the best part. “No, but did you see this?” he says as he swoops in with the ball, leaps through the air, and rolls on the floor for the touchdown. “It was something like that.” I don’t even know what to say. Ever. Just mm-hmm or wow when it could be a wrestling move for all I know.

I never thought I would spend cold afternoons on our street throwing touchdown passes and yelling “Hike” as my son rushes toward the end zone. I can’t throw very far so I have to run behind him as he runs so I can make my pass. I’m working on my spiral though. I’m impressed I even know what one is.

We shopped for football gloves the other day. Gloves? I didn’t even know they made those for football. “What are those?” my son asked, pointing to the white plastic bicycle seat-looking contraptions hanging below the gloves.

“Those are cups,” I said, hoping the conversation would quickly shoot back to the gloves or a player or anything but those cups.

“Cups? For what?”

“For protection,” I said, trying to play it cool as I examined the rubbery gloves a lot longer than I should have. Please don’t ask if you drink out of them.

“For your head?”


“Ooooh!” His eyes lit up. He pointed between his legs. “Now I see why they’re all so big down there.” Forget the gloves. We quickly moved over to toys.

These conversations never happen to my husband in a public place.

As we rushed home so he could play football in the yard, he checked out his new football trading cards, reading all the stats to me in the car. “Mom, there is a Donovan McNabb card in here!” “Mom, Donovan McNabb’s birthday is the day after Thanksgiving.” “Mom, DeSean Jackson’s birthday was nine days ago.”

“Cool.” “Oh yeah?” “Wow.

He played outside with his dad for a few minutes and then ran back in. “Mom, did you see me make that touchdown?”

I’m not sure what part of our conversations suggests that I am a football maniac, but one thing is certain: My son is definitely in love.


Filed under Boy Stories, Everyday Life

Another Goal, A Different Story

As I sat watching the mass of 28 feet desperately battering the ball, I realized I couldn’t even see the goal. My husband was out of town and if my daughter scored her first goal, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to give him the play-by-play. But surely that won’t happen, I thought.

The couple next to me looked away during their conversation and missed their son’s first goal. That’s really a shame, I thought, reliving the glory of my son’s first goal a few days earlier. “Did we miss it?” they asked me. “Did our son just score and we missed it?” I was almost certain he did, but we sat on the opposite end of the field and the five- and six-year-olds huddle around the ball like vultures around a dying cow. It was hard to see exactly what happened.

My daughter played awesome defense. She fought for position against the boys to get a crack at kicking the ball. And then something happened. She kicked it toward the goal. And it was no accident. I craned my neck and sprang to the edge of my seat for a clear view. She was there, she kicked it with force, and it looked like it went in, but then a teammate came and kicked it in farther. Who made the goal?

She looked over at me, smirking. Bewildered, I clapped and smiled and gave her a big thumbs-up. The couple next to me asked, “Did she get it in?” I was thinking the same thing. Great. Now I had possibly missed out on the big rush of my daughter’s first goal because I hadn’t a clue as to whether she made one or not. It all happened so fast.

I figured I’d play it safe, see what she said after the game. She was no help. “Mommy, I almost made a goal,” she told me. “It went behind the goalie and then David kicked it in more.”

“Was the goalie in the goal?” I asked, now revealing my doubts.


“Well then you made it.”

Another parent congratulated her. I figured he had some clue, maybe better than the parents next to me who had already missed their son’s goal. We asked her coach to be sure. He said it was on the line and rolled in, but I couldn’t help feeling a little suspicious.

So we had to tell my husband that we thought she made a goal, reenacting it at home, trying to put together evidence. The verdict? Either way, she was right there and she did great and she knows it.

I hate that her big moment sort of fizzled out by so much uncertainty. I wish her coach had congratulated whoever made it in the moment. But my daughter saw an opportunity and she took it. And I have a feeling this won’t be the last time she pushes her way through a pack of kids and scores big.

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Filed under Can't Get a Break


It may have been the build-up. The longest set-up in the history of eight-year-old soccer. He stood there, trying to get the best angle, turning this way and that for what seemed like ages while some invisible force kept the other players far enough away for him to get everything lined up just right. Fists clenched, I held my breath and played it cool on the outside, but in my head I screamed, “JUST KICK IT! KICK IT! KICK IIIIIITT!” Finally, he did. And he scored what turned out to be the winning goal. My son’s first goal.

That goal wasn’t my success, but it sure felt like I had won. Teetering on the edge of my seat, it’s all I can do sometimes to even remain in it. There’s a lot of stress involved when you’re the parent watching the game. I never knew that before sitting through seasons of sports and games sometimes too painful to watch. It’s hard to see your kid being just like you.

My hope is always that he’ll overcome his fears because I never overcame mine. Isn’t that what we all want, for our kids to do better than we did? To not endure the same embarrassment? Courage. He needs courage. And it took awhile, but he’s finding it.

Lately my son had been improving little by little, making contact with the ball. Some days that’s all we could wish for. Then he had one good game. It was promising.

So last week, when my son’s team played a bunch of his classmates, I wondered how things would turn out. Would he step up and have fun with these boys he rough and tumbles with on the playground or clam up? When the ball came his way and his classmate was the one pushing it toward the goal, my son did nothing but step aside and let him score. I wanted to laugh and cry and yell at him to kick the stinking ball.

He said his heart was about to pound out of his chest. Nerves. Ah, just like me. I never did well at sports. I prayed the ball wouldn’t come near me. What my poor parents had to sit through. But seeing my son push himself and go farther in one season than I ever did my whole childhood, it makes a mom proud.

When my son scored last night on his third attempt, my nerves were shot. In an instant, a lump caught in my throat like a supersize wad of bubblegum. My eyes glazed over with a sheet of tears so fast, I feared I’d lose them there on the field, but not before I saw a smile spread across my son’s face and a humble celebration. And my husband, a quiet man who doesn’t give his emotions away easily, jumped from his chair with his arms raised in victory and cheered like he’d been living for that moment his whole life. The shock of that was enough to bring me back to reality.

I’m not sure who slept with a bigger smile on their face last night: my husband or my son. But the relief of knowing my son found his courage and maybe isn’t so much like me will make me smile for many nights to come.

Go, son. You did it. The success is yours.


Filed under Everyday Life