Tuesday, May 01, 2007

15 Strikes And You’re Out

Our little R had a very rough time recently on her 5/6 year old girl’s softball team. The first several games of her little life were marked by some level of success. Several hits from pitched balls and a few good fielding plays.

At this age, the coaches pitch the girls 3 balls, and if they don’t get a hit, they pull out the T and tee up the ball for an easy smack that usually dribbles a few feet towards the pitcher. Off they run to first base and it all comes down to how strong the pitcher (who runs to pick up the ball and throw to first base) and the first basegirl (who on average catches the wild throw and makes the out about 7% of the time) are.

All of a sudden, for no reason at all, R lost her ability to swing the bat evenly and make a hit. She started having to use the T every time she was up. And then, again suddenly, she lost the ability to hit the ball off the T.

It happened last week. She got up, missed the three coach pitches, and then one by one, for a total of 15 swings (I estimated), her bat kept connecting with the rubber T about a foot below the ball. Each time a coach had to pick up the ball, reset it, step away, and wait for the new swing. The first couple of times it was cute. By number 10 or so it became unbearably painful for me- Dad.

I wanted to swoop in and fix everything for her. To encourage her, to take her away from the pressure and embarrassment she was feeling. I could see it on her face- she was close to tears. A few of the opposing team members starting playing in the dirt, and a couple sat down. It was horrible. The pressure was bubbling up inside me to make it all ok and fix the world crumbling around my little girl. I didn’t though. Mostly because I was the third base coach and there was a coach there with her trying to help. I toughed it out. And so did she.

She finally connected with the ball- a powerful hit straight to the short-stop. It was missed (of course), and rolled into the outfield. R got a nice double.

After the game I asked her how she was and if she had fun at the game. She said she did, but that she didn’t like what happened when she got up to bat (the second and third time she got up she has the same problem as the first, but with only 2-3 swings at the T instead of the 15). She said she was sad, and that all the people everywhere were staring at her. She was close to tears. I had a sudden flashback to K when she had the exact same problem when she was 5 (8 years ago). I told R about her sister K having the same problem, and now K is one of the best hitters in the league, regularly hitting doubles, triples and homeruns almost effortlessly. That seemed to help a bit.

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