When it’s all said and done

Normally I work in the suburbs, which is where I live. I drive to work each along the same route, violating the Mafia Don’s strategy for avoiding a hit, but what can you do? Because it’s the same route I’m usually pretty oblivious to the scenery.

Today, though, I took the train into downtown Chicago, and once I finished reading the Redeye (the local GenX newspaper from the once-proud Chicago Tribune) I sat back and started looking out the window. As the train wound its way through the suburbs into the city, we passed by a rather large soccer complex. Suddenly I found myself whisked down memory lane.

While both of my sons played the game, only one was serious — my son Eric. He played both house league and travel soccer for many years before finally just settling on travel. He did that through high school, but decided not to try to walk on in college due to the course load for his chosen major (athletic training).

Maybe I’m just tired, but as we passed those fields I suddenly had a tinge of sadness realizing how much I missed watching Eric play soccer. He was always passionate about it and gave 100% whenever he was on the field. His passion more than his talent made him a difference-maker on whatever team he was on.

I coached him for a couple of years when he was very young, but for most of his career I was just a parent on the sidelines in his camp chair, and I was very content with that.

Ok, here’s where it applies to fastpitch softball if you haven’t figured it out yet. As I thought back on his playing career, I wasn’t really focused on any particular game, or record, or even any year. I just remember how much he loved playing the game, and how much I loved watching him do it. I often drove him to and from the games, and I remember quietly listening to music in the car on the way there (A Hard Day’s Night was his favorite psych-up song) and animatedly dicussing the game afterwards. We’d talk about how the team did, how he did, what went right, what went wrong, and how he felt about the whole thing overall. It wasn’t me coaching from the driver’s seat either. Just a fun discussion that prolonged the experience of the game.

I didn’t think about it much then. One game just sort of blended into the next. Often we were hard-pressed to get to the games due to the many activities of all my children, and when they were done we were on to something else. There was always another game to concern ourselves with.

Now there aren’t anymore. He plays on a team with his fraternity, but it’s not the same. And I don’t get to see it in any case. This morning I was thinking about what I would give to be able to relive one of those days, when my young son was out working his butt off to try and win a game that ultimately mattered to no one.

Winning and trophies and being 63-4 seems very important at the time. I get caught up in it too, especially when I coach. But when it’s all said and done, it’s doubtful you’re going to remember a whole lot about all that stuff, or savor it the way you think you might.

The important thing is the playing. What you’ll remember for the most part (most likely) is one sort of big, blurry game that spans years, not the individual games. And that’s why I believe it’s better to play on a team that’s not quite as good as to sit the bench on a great team. You don’t want your memories of your child to be primarily sitting on the bench watching her teammates win trophies.

And for those who are in a good situation, savor it. Take a little time before or after the game to look around, take in the sights, the sounds, even the smells of the ballfield. Because before you know it you may find yourself sitting on a train, looking wistfully at ballfields going by and wishing you’d worried about scholarships and trophies a little less, and enjoyed it a little more.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on September 24, 2008, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. As a dad of one and a coach/dad of another, point well taken. At the end of the day(or career) I want my kids to look back at softball as a fun time in their childhoods.

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  2. You have a lot of great post but this one is just so true. You realized that kind of things much later. On the moment, winning, playing, getting the recognition is important. Years later… who cares? who remembers these little things?You’ll remember the funny moments, the people you played with AND the coaches you played for.. not winning or losing so much that what playing brought you.Great post.

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  3. After long thought about this topic, I’m not sure I completely agree with this theory that we won’t remember particular games or whether we were good or not. I can’t speak as to what my parents remember, but I do remember specific games and teams for reasons of winning and losing. I do not have a great memory, but I loved to play so much it is what I often thought about. I remember winning the championship in baseball my junior year. I didn’t contribute much that season and never felt a part of the team, but I remember almost losing it for my team. In a specific game I got one of my few starts of the year, and absolutely stunk as the catcher and was yanked after 2 compounded back to back errors that allowed a run to score. I was replaced, and my team came back to win in spite of me 2-1. I remember a few other games during that season where I actually helped the team win. I remember catching the last out of a specific game with a nice sliding catch into a fence that let us win by one run when they had runners on 2nd & 3rd. I remember my freshman season when we were really good, and the team rocked through conference play. I don’t remember much about my sophmore season when we stunk. I remember winning it all when I was in Majors of Little League. Many of my memories were of what I thought were really good plays I made, or of my winning teams. So for me, winning helped me remember many good things. Yes, I lost specifics about many individual games, but I remember more things about my winning teams – hands down. I think winning and doing things that contribute to winning teams lends to good memories. So the key for me is being on a team that you contribute to and win on is important. Not the end all, but important.

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  4. Since when did my good friend Ken turn into Norman Rockwell ?  Okay I agree it is better to play than to sit (although I have coached a few kids that would rather be on the bench with their friends than on the field)… but to stretch your theory a little… if all that matters is playing … well then we probably should have just stayed in the local house softball league with our daughters. They would have played all the time, played with friends and against friends and had a great time with a lot of memories. But the fact is we (with our daughters) wanted more… That why we spend a lot of time, effort and money getting our daughters the best equipment, and lessons so that they can achieve at their highest potential. For my daughter this year it means playing maybe a little less on a better team. She could have stayed safe and played for the old team (I would have when I was a kid) but she has taken on this challenge. As for our memories, they are being filled with nights in a cage hitting and fielding working together to make sure that we take on the challenge together. When it is all said and done … we will have great memories and know that we gave it a shot… One last note: After reading your blog about your memories with your son and then the comment by Coach Mike H about his memories… I looked back at my playing days..and almost cried… your options were to play on a team not so good or not play on a good team…. I didn’t get to play often and I was on the bad team 

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  5. Since when did my good friend Ken turn into Norman Rockwell ? Okay I agree it is better to play than to sit (although I have coached a few kids that would rather be on the bench with their friends than on the field)… but to stretch your theory a little… if all that matters is playing … well then we all should have just stayed in the local house softball league with our daughters. They would get to play all the time, play with friends and against friends and had a great time. And who can beat running over to the concession stand after each game for ice cream? But the fact is we (with our daughters) wanted more… That’s why we spend a lot of time, effort and money getting our daughters the best equipment, training, and lessons so that they can achieve at their highest potential. Shoot that’s even why we spend our lunch hours in the fall reading blogs about softball looking for a new tip, angle, idea to give our daughters an edge. For my daughter this year it means playing maybe a little less on a better team. She could have stayed safe and played for another team (I probably would have because it is easy and comfortable) but she has taken on this challenge. As for our memories, they are being filled with nights in a cage hitting and fielding making sure that we take on the challenge with our best effort. And when it is all said and done we know we gave it our best shot… One last note: After reading your blog about your memories with your son and then the comment by Coach Mike about his playing days… I looked back at my playing days..and almost cried… your options were to play on a not so good team or sit on a good team…. I didn’t get to play often even when I was on the bad team 😦

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  6. Interesting perspectives from all. Those who have been through it and have finished the journey tend to agree with the basic post. Those who are going through it now tend to disagree. It’ll be interesting to see how Mike and Frank feel about it when their daughters have finished their careers. I know I felt differently about my son’s soccer team when he was playing. They were always mediocre at best and I wasn’t happy about it. (I was also paying a lot of money for that, and it was supposed to be a step or two up from where he’d played before.) It was very frustrating at the time. I see it differently now. Also keep in mind my post is addressed to the parents, not the players. The players will remember more individual stuff (although probably still not that much). As a parent, though, you’ll remember more of the overall experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the winning and losing, and the BS around it. But when you daughter is done playing, I suspect those things will matter a lot less. I don’t long for the days my kids sat the bench. I miss the days they played. Frank, as for the time invested in lessons and equipment and such, yes it is to help our kids get better. But if your daughter rarely gets a chance to demonstrate those improved abilities in a game, would you still think it’s worth it? Probably not. Hey we all like winning. As Nuke LaLouche says, it’s so much more fun than losing. But years from now, your memories of your kids will probably involve playing, not winning or losing. That’s what I’m saying.

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  7. I see what you are saying, but this isn’t about us. We shouldn’t care as much about what we remember, we should care about what our kids experience and remember. I got my DD into softball (almost any sport would do) because I want it to be something for her – something for her to help her grow, understand teamwork, understand how you need to work for things, how to become a leader, how to study and the list goes on. I also knew that softball is one of the few sports where you have to evaluate success based on how much you fail – to me a very difficult concept to understand and more importantly, accept. Sure, I hope my memories are good ones of her, but if it takes me a bunch of pain and anguish to let her have good memories, then so be it. As I mentioned earlier – I remember a lot more when I was on winning teams then when I was on losing teams, but I also stated that I was a contributing factor to those winning teams. I think you need to play to feel what I felt, to feel you contributed. We won the championship and I really didn’t care, because I didn’t play much. It was a very hollow accomplishment. So I do indeed remember being on a winning team when I didn’t contribute much, and that struggle has never left me – it is one that I am very much doing my best to keep my DD out of. So I think the key is to find a good team for the appropriate level of play for your DD. Maybe she doesn’t play all the time, but she needs to feel she contributed and that usually isn’t by sitting on the bench most of the time.

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  8. OK, I’m trying to summarize my thoughts here. I have experienced losing seasons, and two championships at the high school level. I don’t remember as much about the losing seasons, I remember only a bit more about the championship where I didn’t contribute much, but I have great memories of the championship I played a big role in. The memories and most importantly, the feeling of complete accomplishment when we won is a feeling that will never be taken away, and the feeling I want my DD to experience. Something happened to me after that victory – I understood what it took to win, what it feels like to really accomplish something, and I became such a competetive person after that victory. It just snapped in me. I did what I was told to do by the coaches before that victory, but I started working on my own after that victory. I was an average baseball player my junior year with a good arm, then won the football championship as a senior and then worked my butt off for the next baseball season. I ended up hitting .750 as a senior half way through the season, when my season ended when I tore up my ankle in the allstar game. I contribute a lot of my senior baseball success to the football victory. I could go on about how it changed me but I’m sure you are already tired of my posts. Suffice it to say, I would like to see my daughter work her butt off, and achieve the ultimate goal. I want her to feel that sense of accomplishment. Telling her that her stats were good and that she should feel good about that is not enough – she won’t feel it – it won’t spark her like it happened to me if she doesn’t experience it. I want to see her sparked before her senior year of high school.

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  9. Mike, I agree with what you’re saying. I think we’re saying the same thing, just in different ways. It’s definitely about our daughters, not ourselves. To me, that’s where a lot of parents get hung up. They hate losing, so they project that on their daughters and put them on teams that win, without regard as to whether their daughter can contribute. I’ve had kids sit the bench. It’s no fun for them, and it’s no fun for me either. My son Adam was a pretty good ballplayer but very shy, and most of his career he was on teams where he didn’t know anyone. So, in those first couple of weeks he wouldn’t show much, and thus would be relegated to part-time player no matter what he did after that. I doubt he remembers those teams fondly. But he does have good memories of playing, mostly based on good plays he made or balls he hit well. I am glad for that. That was house league. In travel ball, there are more choices. You can find a team that suits your player. I think we’re agreed there too. Being on a team that’s not a fit is no fun, whether the other players are significantly better or significantly weaker.With my son Eric, it was his joy of playing that I remember. He contributed and did all he could to help his team win. That’s what I miss watching. A tournament win would’ve been nice, sure, but it wouldn’t have affected my missing it that much now.

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