I hope to practice what I preach

Published 9:31 am Sunday, March 3, 2002

By By Brian Blackley, Publisher
Each year for I don't know how many years, I have written an editorial in the month of March or April about the beginning of recreation league ball n T-ball, baseball or softball n depending on the gender and age of the children in question.
Each year, the editorial, written in the impassioned voice of the newspaper I represented, proclaimed staunchly that parents need to set good examples for their children by cheering their kids on, while offering silence instead of criticism toward coaches, referees or other kids and parents.
And each year for the past I don't know how many years, a parent has been tossed from a game, has made a kid or kids cry, has thrown an obscenity at another child or adult, or n in some cases n thrown a punch.
This year, I leave the spot to the left of this column for other ideas and subjects, choosing to refrain from standing on my soapbox and passing down insightful wisdom (which some would say is ignorance) and words of encouragement (called "fightin' words" in some circles) to parents.
It's not because I feel any less strongly than I always have that sports are for the kids, not the parents.
It's not because I feel that anything less than a quiet and positive demeanor is acceptable.
It's certainly not because I want parents hollering at their kids, beating the stew out of umpires or cursing other parents and coaches.
It's because n for the first time I stand with them. I am one of them one of the good ones, I hope but one of them nonetheless.
I'll be sitting in the stands at games, tossing the ball to my child as she learns to catch, throw and swing a bat, and n if I heed my own advice n showing sincere encouragement for all things good and silence for all those other things.
But anything could happen.
I am, after all, a parent.
According to the example my parents set, being quiet when things went badly should come easy – on the field.
My mother and father would sit quietly in the stands, offer a few nice cheers for me as I stood at the plate or took the field and would keep their opinions about the coach, the umpires, the other parents and the other children to themselves.
They would even be silent with their opinions of me and my performance until I was at home with them.
Then my dad, who's a wonderful guy with a quick wit and a real sees-the-world-in-black-and-white-cup's-half-empty personality would say things like, "You really knocked the stew out of the ball when you hit that double."
And as I began to glow, would continue, "So why did you let that wienie-armed-so-and-so get two strikes on you before you finally made contact?"
Of course the smile would evaporate
My father never understood the concept of constructive criticism, which, in a perfect world, would go, "Great hit in the fourth. You really brought the bat around on the ball. But I noticed you seemed to be having trouble making contact early in the count. What was throwing you off and what can I do to help you with that? I think that if we can get that ironed out and you've got the makings of a great hitter."
What can I say? The guy never read management books.
And there was my mother n the poor dear.
So who was "them" and what did they say about the incompetent fool who was making their kids lose the game? I needed to know so I could crawl in a hole and die of shame.
But I never found out.
At any rate, now's the time I can make up for all of that. I can be exactly who my parents weren't and I can help my child be excellent by coaching and counseling her to success the way I always wanted to be coached and counseled. In fact, I can make her the player I never was by REALLY showing her how to handle a bat, ball and a glove. I can make up for those lost years. She can be great
Or then again, maybe I'd better sit quietly in the stands and let the kids play ball. It is about them. Isn't it? I'm so confused.
Brian Blackley is Publisher of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached via telephone at 368-2123 or email brian.blackley@atmoreadvance.com

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