This past weekend, my oldest son kicked off his fall baseball season, a precursor to the spring, a testing ground to see what development needs to take place in the “off season”. It was a one day tournament, relatively close to home (which is critical to travel sports parents….) and amazing weather. To make it even more fun, several of our boys’ friends were also playing in the tournament in various age groups, so in between games we got to visit with them which was a great way to spend our down time.
When it was time to play, our son took the field, with a new team, a new number and a new team logo on his jersey. This was both exciting and a little heart breaking. Our new team is great, lots of good athletes, nice kids, and good parents and coaches. We are excited to get to know them and watch the boys play together over the coming months. However, when I thought of seasons past, it made me think of all the teammates that weren’t there, of all the athletes and their families that have moved in different directions for various reasons, and of all the great memories we shared with them over the years.
This isn’t a unique experience in the sport of travel baseball. From what I’ve noticed, its common place for a team to break apart after each season, leaving parents and athletes scrambling to find new teams or new teammates for the following season. I’m not sure if this is applicable to other sports but it’s certainly a trend in youth baseball, and it is endlessly exhausting to all involved. There are various reasons for this but the “grass is always greener” mentality seems to be at the heart of it. Teams want better athletes, athletes want better teams, and coaches and parents often want both. As a parent trying to navigate this continuously shifting landscape, I often wonder if the grass is every really greener. Has anyone found a better team, a better coach, a better experience… something worth all the chaos and drama, something that has staying power, season after season. And in the end, are the athletes themselves happier.
I’ve always believed that the grass is greenest where you water it. This doesn’t mean that change isn’t called for from time to time, because it is and change can be good. However, the relentless pursuit of the perfect team, an elusive ideal at best, might be the wrong pursuit. Perhaps watering the grass where you are, identifying how things can improve and being an agent of change to try to facilitate that with the clear focal point of developing the talent and athletes that surround you, is a better pursuit, that often yields better results.
Some of the most beneficial aspects of youth sports derive from learning how to build and develop strong relationships and finding a safe environment where failure is a form of growth/development both for themselves and their teammates. How can our young athletes learn about being a good teammate, a good winner and loser, and overcoming adversity if the solution to any/all problems is finding a new greener pasture? And how can our young athletes learn to believe in themselves if their coaches and teammates don’t?
Good/Great teams are developed, not curated. Curation of talent is what happens in college and in the pros, it shouldn’t be a focal point of youth sports. The challenge and triumph is in forming the raw clay that lies on the potter’s wheel into the final piece and it takes a village to support that process. So, if the goal of youth sports is to develop talent, learn critical life lessons and make some great memories, perhaps it’s time to start watering the grass we stand in, instead of looking for greener grass. Because when we water the grass we stand in, it becomes greener for everyone; and that is how we all win.