Scenario: Hot July night in Davis, CA. Little League Fields are full of spectators smiling and sweating through the sweltering 100 degree plus heat amidst umbrellas, ice chests, and the search for shade. Hundreds of people were gathered to watch our local children battle it out in the District 64 all star games.
I do love Davis Little League baseball. Starting with T-ball, our sons and daughters learn to run, bat, throw, catch, and play hard. As they move through Farm, AA, AAA, and into Majors, games turn from endless marathons of good natured cheers and encouragement to intense moments of strategy, skill and endurance. But tonight’s game got me thinking about HOW we teach them to play the game.
My son has had dozens of amazing Davis Little League coaches. As a teacher, I am always amazed at and profoundly grateful for the contribution they make to the program-my son wouldn’t be the player he is without their dedication. I’ve watched them coach through rain, wind, cold, and heat with smiles on their faces and a constant positive attitude. They teach, supervise, and prepare their players to do their best and never give up-excellent life lessons. But tonight I watched a different kind of coaching-this came from a visiting coach from a neighboring town during the all star games.
This visiting coach used the ‘bark and drill’ approach. He was loud, and barked as if he were conducting a symphony of soldiers on the field. I tried to listen to what he was saying, and I have to admit that most of what spewed out of his mouth was ‘positive’- but the kind of encouragement that I would expect from someone training kids to win at all costs. The strategy he used didn’t seem to involve his head or his heart-it was intimidating, loud, and abrasive. Because I was sitting merely 10 feet away from his ranting, I couldn’t help but wonder how the players on the field (namely the third baseman) could keep their focus. He yelled, but did anybody hear him?
Baseball is a game of concentration and observation. Players need to plan ahead, think it through, and know what they will do if and when the ball arrives in their space. This ‘coach’ was taking all individual thought away from his players in favor of overwhelming them with his plan. Is this what we really want our kids to learn about playing a sport? Are these the life lessons our kids should learn?
What I’ve learned is that the best way to get people to listen to you is to let them hear you whisper. Trying to “lift up” versus “shout down” has always served me best-both in and out of the classroom. What I’m still learning is how to deal with these yell leaders-if you have any ideas, please let me know. And please, thank those coaches in your life who teach by example, and know how to really communicate what’s important.
Sometimes we don’t know where we’re headed. Actually, most of the time. This is especially hard if you’re one of those people who likes to know where they’re going-all of the time. Like me.
I’m not much of a risk taker. I don’t like high places, ledges, surprises, or the unknown. I like to have a plan. I like lists, planners, recipes and getting things done. But every once in awhile I surprise myself, and take a step. Sometimes they are baby steps, sometimes, mamabear steps, and sometimes I just jump without thinking or looking. Those are the scary ones to me, and more often than not I end up regretting something about them. Especially when it involves over-indulgence. But lately I’ve taken a few mamabear steps that have actually come out ok.
I was talking with a new friend the other day, and we were discussing what it’s like to be our age and feel like we’re getting to the place where change is really quite scary, especially if it involves careers, money and doing something that other people (younger ones) are more skilled at, more experienced at, or maybe just more courageous. We agreed that sometimes ‘putting ourselves out there’ is essential to open the door of life just a tinge wider, giving us a new view and opening up the possibility that ‘there’ will respond. And the crazy thing is, it usually does.
This has happened to me a couple of times over the last few years, giving me the confidence to now keep the door propped open. Just a tinge. For some of us just taking the jump into parenthood is the opening. For some, finishing school, a project, taking a trip or creating something just for the sake of creativity. Like a blog.
What I’ve learned is that Lao Tzu’s famous quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” is absolutely true. That step can be small, medium, or large, but it’s a step all the same. And usually, if you’re on firm ground to begin with, the step comes out ok. And then another one can follow right after it. If the ground beneath you is muddy, crumbly, or slippery, that step might take longer or require some thought, but it still can be done. What I’m still learning is that I can trust myself to take the step, and to know that there are so many people in my life that will hold my hand if I need help to get down the path.
I used power tools today. Actually, it was A power tool, not more than one. The project at hand was to hang an outdoor screen, which involved drilling into stucco. It also involved going to the hardware store, buying the green screw thingies that go into the stucco, purchasing a special 3/4″ drill bit just for masonry, and then somehow figuring it all out by myself. Oh-there was also caulk involved. To protect the stucco.
Each year my husband and son spend a week together at Mt. Hood, Oregon at a ski racing camp. Since I don’t race, I use the week to stay at home and finish all the projects I’ve put on my summer ‘to-do’ list. I actually don’t mind the week alone (smile) and don’t even mind the projects. I clean the carpets, organize the cupboards, go through the year’s worth of photos, read, sleep, watch movies, and hardly cook at all. I also usually paint something, but that’s another post. So today, it was the window shade. After obtaining the good advice at Ace Hardware, I gathered my tools and headed up on the ladder. My teenage daughter wasn’t too interested in helping, which disappointed me somewhat-what a great chance to see what mamawolfe could do all by herself! I tried to get her to help with finding some tools, plugging in cords, but quickly realized I was on my own. So up the ladder I went, drill in hand. I knew it was crucial to get that first hole drilled correctly. You can’t erase a stucco hole. After careful calculations, a few pencil marks, and some concerted effort I had a hole. I quickly squirted some caulking in, hammered the green screwy thing, and screwed my cup hook in tightly. It worked! Next, more lining up. My confidence strong, I measured, drilled, caulked, hammered and screwed again. Up went the shade! I actually did it all by myself! Full of pride, I snapped a picture as evidence and descended.
Later, after the chores for the day were done, we decided to watch a DVD-The Social Network. On the ‘big’ tv upstairs, the one with the large screen and surround sound. It’s girl’s week, after all. We assembled dinner, and slipped the DVD in. Turned on the tv, all good. But no movie. No picture, no sound. We couldn’t make it happen. We tried texting my husband to find out what was wrong, but no response. We just couldn’t get it to play. Humbly, we returned downstairs to the more simple, familiar machine. Small screen, no surround sound, but we would watch our movie.
What I learned today is that I can do some things I never thought I could. I can successfully drill into the side of a stucco house. I can use a caulk gun. I can hammer and screw and hang all by myself, even while standing on a ladder. But I can’t operate a simple machine. I need my husband. A friend commented on my Facebook (ironic, huh?) tonight, saying it seems like my family is never in the same place. It made me think about the time we do spend apart, and how it gives me the chance to do things all by myself, and how I really do need my family around. Not just to turn on the DVD, but to celebrate the simple things, and to help me learn. I’m still learning how to do a lot, even at my age.