FEATURE: The Car Ride Home (Part One)
Alumni contributor and published author Mark Maguire has for a long time been interested in exploring the relationship between budding young baseball athletes and well-meaning parents who – in seeking to do the very best by their son or daughter – so often find themselves evaluating their own role and the advice that they might reasonably provide in the familial connection.
Mark has kindly provided us with a series of brief, provoking anecdotes that may or may not reflect elements of the exchanges between baseball parents and their children as all parties learn and hopefully grow together.
"The Car Ride Home (that takes five minutes)" is a six-part series that Mark Maguire has written in recent times. In thanking Mark for his input, Australian Baseball Alumni recommends the series to our readers – instalments of which we will post over each of the next six weeks.
The car ride home is an experience that helps define a parent/child relationship. Here are six topics that have helped me improve myself, understand my son better and allow him to challenge himself to be the best athlete he can. This is your first ride sitting in the backseat of my car listening in on our relationship. And if you’re wondering… yes, he did agree to everything written.
1. How to inspire your child to overcome their fears.
All our children have fears lying deep within them. Some fears are inconsequential. Most will ignore their fears and give little regard to how they affect their game. More than likely, if the fears remain undealt with, they can hold the young athlete back from successfully taking the next step forward or enjoying themselves more in the sport they’ve chosen.
We are anxious to help our kids overcome their fears but often times we don’t get our message across. Why?
Mostly, it is how we deliver our message. We’re not communicating in a language and a weakness that they can relate to.
Yes, weakness, that’s exactly what I wrote. Your child will relate more to you when they hear about your insecurities, your uncertainties, and your human frailties. And when you share them at the right moment they won't just feel closer to you - they’ll feel inspired by you.
My son, in the last few years, has been reluctant to dive to catch a baseball because of a fear he would hurt a swollen left nipple. It’s an embarrassing problem a few teen guys suffer with and something that generally goes away as the teen gets older.
He’s a centre fielder and he’s expected to spread himself over the grass to make the catch if his speed can’t quite get him there; most of the time his speed gets him there. However, there is the rare occasion he should have dived but he didn’t. The lingering and undealt-with fear can speak quickly: don’t allow your nipple to get hurt.
I shared with him a certain fear I had about umpiring in baseball games. I would flinch when I perceived the pitcher's delivery was going straight for my facemask. What hasn’t helped has been umpiring to catchers that completely miss the ball or the ball deflects off their glove and I wear it in the mask or in the body somewhere in an unprotected spot.
I would tell myself: OK Maguire, don’t flinch; wear it if you have to. Still, I was scared about being hit. Until, one day, I was watching an umpiring instruction video and the speaker said: you’re an umpire, accept it, you’re going to get hit; if you don’t want to get hit don’t umpire.
As simple as that I overcame my fear because I faced the fact and accepted it. I resolved that I wanted to be an umpire and part of the job is I’m going to get hit.
I said to my son: If you want to be an excellent baseball player and go somewhere in the sport you’re going to have to accept you’re going to hurt yourself while diving. If you can’t accept this you’ll limit and hold yourself back.
I went back to him a week later and said: I still now and then flinch, yet I simply smile and tell myself to stare at the ball all the way into the mask; I’m an umpire and I’m going to get hit. He came back to me three weeks later and was beaming: guess what, dad, I dived, it might have been a bit sloppy, but I didn’t hold back.
Mums, Dads, Coaches: Inspire them through their difficulties by being open about your difficulties and fears and how you fought your way to conquer them. You’ll see your young athlete expand their mind and challenge themselves to greater heights.
(You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss your experience or dilemma. I’m always open to learning something new and I’m always open to giving time and thought to help)