The Powerful Words that Mean So Much

Last night, my son had a baseball game.  Husband was coaching.  I was running the dugout.  Our boys faced a tough team and played hard.  Our son had a good game but made some mistakes that don’t usually happen.  He was upset.

On the way home in the car, it was just the two of us.  We were quiet for a few minutes, just relaxing and downloading all that had happened.  Something prompted me to say, “I am proud of you”.  I saw his stress start to melt away.  He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Why would you be proud of me?”

I told him that he doesn’t have to do anything spectacular on that field for me to be proud of him.  As long as he tries his best, I will always be proud.

I reminded him that baseball is a tough sport.  There is a very good chance you will strike out, drop a ball, miss a grounder, or be called out at a base.   It is ok.  You will not be perfect every time.

There were some good things that happened on the field.  He had some good plays and hits, so we focused on those.  I reminded him that the rest of the player development will come… just to keep working hard.

The conversation could have gone a very different way in the car on the way home.  We could have focused on all that went wrong and how we were going to make it better, but instead, he needed to hear that I was proud.  And my words made a difference.

Later he told me that those words made him feel better about himself.  I hope so.  I don’t want his self-worth to be dependent upon his performance on the field.  He has a lot of heart, he loves the game, and as long as he is having fun and trying hard… I will ALWAYS be proud.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

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Lessons from the Dugout

It’s hard to imagine that our baseball coaches are simply volunteers. There is a great deal of love, passion, and time that goes into a season.  My husband loves being able to coach.  I love being able to help.  One of my many responsibilities as a Team Mom is that I get to run drills with the boys on the field, I also do administrative stuff for my hubby/coach since he has a full time job, but I think my most important job is that I run the dugout.  For every game.

A lot happens in the dugout.  It is a very adventurous place.  Our son is now 11 years old, but when he and his teammaues were 9/10 and younger,  I found it was important to be in the dugout. I end up being the batting order coordinator, counselor, cheerleader, photographer, motivational speaker, nurse, aka boo boo fixer, monitor of boys climbing the fence, and trying to make sure none of the players swings a bat in the dugout.  I also am a “bat runner” or “bat girl” if you prefer.  It is fun but you have to stay on your toes.  I have to be prepared.

I make sure I have these important items in my trusty Team Mom Bag:

First Aid Kit

Medical Forms

Pens for my husband/Coach who always tends to forget his

Ice packs

Sunscreen

Extra Snacks

Water Bottles

Game Schedule/Snack Schedule

Team Spirit

I will always have a first aid kit with me for those moments where anything can happen.  Blisters, cuts, scrapes, bumps, and bruises.  This is also why I will bring a few ice packs.  (Summer Baseball is an entirely different situation… more on this later.)

Our park has asked our players to fill out medical forms in case of emergency.  I will always have those with me in a folder or notebook.

I will always bring a few extra water bottles and snack bars in case someone is starving in the dugout, or forgot to bring their water bottle.  Especially those who are running from somewhere else or forgot to eat breakfast.  Keeping in mind food allergies.

I always have a copy of the game schedule either in writing or on my phone because someone will almost always ask me about an upcoming game or when they are supposed to bring snack.

But, like I said I help out in the dugout, every game.  As the coach’s wife, he puts me to the task and trusts I will handle it.

The first couple of games are the funniest because the boys are still bonding as a team, and learning so much.  Some are climbing on everything, and some are throwing balls and/or swinging bats.  This is my job to monitor (prevent) all of this.

As the “batting order coordinator” so I have to have those boys ready to go on deck or up to bat.  No matter what.  It takes a game or two to get them to understand the timing of all of this.  When the boys were younger, sometimes it took 2 of us in the dugout… 1 for crowd control and 1 for batting order.

The first couple of games, our players can get so nervous.  I teach them to cheer each other on.  Sometimes things on the field don’t always go their way and this is an important lesson to learn.  If one of our players strikes out, I will teach they boys that as that player comes back to the dugout, that are met by their team with pats on the back and a “it’s ok, man!” or to give them a High Five.  Lift them up when they are down.  And to do that throughout the game no matter what.  Sometimes just hearing a “you can do it!” from another player can mean so much.

This is so much a part of the game.  Lifting each other up when GOOD things happen and lifting each other up when BAD things happen.

Things on the field will not go their way every single time.

Just like life…

Never DefeatedWhen things don’t go our way, it’s always nice to have a teammate, friend, family member to pat us on the back and say, “it’s ok, man!” or give us a high five for at least trying and getting out there and giving good effort.

By the end of the season, the boys are usually connected, they are teammates and friends.  They know what is expected of them in the dugout.  I don’t have to watch for swinging bats as much…or balls flying through the air, but I will see them give pats on the back and hear them give words of encouragement to their teammate when things didn’t go their way on the field.

Then I have done my job.

Sometimes, baseball is more than just baseball.

Make Your Practices Count

We’re back at it!  Fall Baseball has started up.  Softball too.  We are so busy running from one practice to another… and Marching Band also.  We will sleep when our kids are in college.. hopefully.  LOL  This is why I haven’t posted in a while…life has been so busy for us.

With our season underway, it got me thinking about how busy we are and how to best use our time.  Our practice time also.  We’ve seen several different coaching styles through these last 16 seasons that our kids have played baseball/softball.  Most of them my husband and I were in charge of.  Some teams, we have been coached by others.  It’s interesting to see the differences in coaching styles but this is what I’ve seen work best.

Know the names of your kids!  Coaches, as you are starting your new season, as a mom…. I beg beg beg of you to learn and know the names of your kids on your team.  I know this sounds simple… but after several weeks, our son’s coach was STILL calling my son by the wrong name.  He saw it in writing, he was corrected dozens of times, but wouldn’t you know… he STILL called my son by the wrong name.  This is not going to make the kids on your team happy or make them feel like they can trust you when you are shouting at them from the dugout and not calling them by their REAL name.  It doesn’t make their parents too happy either.  😉

Have a Practice Plan and Stick to it.  Seriously…Write it out.  Schedule in every little thing.  Do you need to talk about something?  Schedule adequate time.  Do you need to teach a certain skill?  Allow time to teach and execute.  We’ve seen so many practices where kids are on the field standing around where one kid has batting practice.  There are so many things to work on.

Set Skill Stations!  Depending how many coaches you have or talented baseball dads that can help (please don’t ask just anyone), it’s a good idea to have small groups go to 3 to 4 different stations to work on basic fundamentals.  This way all of your players are working on something at the same time and no one is standing around.  Rotate stations about every 10-20 minutes until everyone has had a chance to be in all stations.  It is so important to practice the basic fundamentals at every practice for success in a game.  And don’t waste your time practicing something that really doesn’t matter (like pick-off plays) if your team can’t do the basics like catch a fly ball or throw accurately to get someone out on base.

Suggested Stations include:  fielding ground balls (every practice), catching fly balls (every practice), batting (every practice), throwing accurately (you can work on this in the fielding ground balls and catching ground balls station), catching infield pop flys, pitching, catching, base running, bunting, etc.  Your stations can be set by the need of the team that week.  My husband used to bring a hand held size notebook and when he would see something in a game that needed to be worked on, he would write it down and address it at the next practice.   (schedule it in) 🙂

Develop your Pitchers and Catchers!  The success of your team will revolve around your pitchers and catchers!  Develop them.  Teach them.  Practice with them.  Give them the experience.  You will need plenty of players that can do this.  Give them a chance.  And you might even uncover a hidden talent that a kid didn’t even know they had.  Even if you don’t have the strongest team, the success of your team will revolve around your pitchers and catchers!  It makes me crazy to see coaches using the same 2 or 3 kids as pitchers AND catchers.  This will wear out their arms.  Please don’t let this happen to you or your kid.  See my post on How to Prevent Little League Elbow

Don’t Talk Too Much!  If you need to explain something or talk to your team, allow time for that.  Often times, we have seen coaches that will talk and talk and talk and lose valuable practice time, instead of cutting off their speech at a suitable amount of time, when their team is zoning out.  If you talk too much, your players will lose interest.  And I’m a big fan of the best baseball players being the best listeners!  Is your athlete coachable? But… speeches should be efficient, effective, short, and sweet.

Parents are happier when they see their kids working hard at practice instead of seeing them stand around at the chance of a ball coming their way.  Parents also want to feel better at how they and their child are spending their time.  As a coach, you want to teach your players the game of baseball by working on the skills needed to play. The game of baseball/softball can be slow… and practices can be also.  If you let it.  Let’s give our kids the tools needed to play in such an efficient way because, let’s face it, we’re all busy, and time is short.

Enjoy.  Live.  And Play Ball.

 

 

 

 

Playing Baseball in the HEAT-Spring Edition

As the weather gets warmer, it’s time to start thinking a little differently in terms of playing baseball in the HEAT.  In Georgia, it is not uncommon for it to get to 80 degrees in April.  Then, put a team of 9/10 year olds on the field in the direct sun during long innings, and you can have a little situation on your hands.

The players get extremely hot and sometimes overheated during times like these, so here are some tricks to keep your players healthy and cool:

*Make sure they hydrate 2 days before, as well as the day of your game.  If you wait until the day of your game, by then it is too late.  I heard this from Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves when he was asked, “How do you survive playing in 100 degree heat?”  That was his answer. You have to hydrate 2 days before your game…If the body is well hydrated, your player will have a better chance of feeling better during the game, playing better, have less cramping, and a better chance of not getting overheated.

*NO DAIRY in the morning if they have a game before noon.  I have seen a few players have some stomach issues because they had yogurt or other dairy products for breakfast before a 9:00am game in the hot weather.  Not a good idea.  Did you guys hear about the time that Justin Bieber threw up on stage during his concert because he drank milk right before he went on?  Yuck!  You get the idea….

*Have your child drink plenty of water, Powerade, Gatorade, etc. DURING the game….make sure your player has a full thermos of ice water and drink it every chance they get.  Please remind them that it’s important to stay on top of it and drink BEFORE they get too hot or thirsty.

On really hot days, I will take ice packs or a sandwich bags filled with ice, put them in a cooler and let the boys put them on the back of their necks and wrists to cool them down between innings.  They are so grateful that someone recognizes that they need this.  I also have the little fans that can hang around their necks so they can feel some cool air blowing on their face.  It’s not a bad idea to ask the parents to purchase a FrogTog towel for their player since it stays cool, it can go around the neck, and they can cool down in between innings.

Afterwards, I’ve seen my son play a hot game but not seem to be able to get his energy back in the hours following the game.  His pediatrician had already told me to give him on Carnation Instant Breakfast to help him catch up with his weight… but… this drink also gives great energy since it is filled with vitamins and nutrients, so I decided to use it as a post-game recovery drink.

It works wonders.

I mix the Chocolate Carnation powder with 12 ounces of whole milk and he has a nice, cool, refreshing drink that helps him feel full, cooled down, and revitalized. I had already heard that Chocolate Milk is good for muscle recovery, and with Carnation being a Nutritional Drink, it got my wheels turning and I decided to make it into a smoothie.

It just hits the spot.  I use it myself after a workout and it is perfect.

I use:

  • 12 ounces of milk… for kids I use whole milk since my son is a little underweight, for myself I use skim milk.
  • 1 Carnation Instant Breakfast Powder Packet – Chocolate or Vanilla Flavor–or Protein Powder for Adults
  • Frozen Blueberries (a handful) if desired—acts as the ice cubes in your smoothie
  • Banana
  • 1 Tablespoon of Peanut Butter
  • For Fun: I just MIGHT put a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream– just for my son, not for me. 🙂
  • For Adults:  I will put in 1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds and/or Flax Seed

Also, with smoothies it is suggested that you put them in your blender in this order:

  1. Liquid first—this will help your blades move easily when you turn on your blender
  2. Powders next—protein powder, cocoa powder, Carnation Instant Breakfast.
  3. Soft Foods—Bananas, etc.
  4. Hard Foods—frozen fruits, raw veggies
  5. Ice Cubes—LAST! They will help the blades pull all the other ingredients down.

I found a pack of Smoothie Straws that help drinking these a lot easier.

We play a month of summer baseball and it is an entire different “ballgame” in terms of staying cool.   The heat index can easily get up to 100 degrees.  I will post about “survival tips” in ‘Playing Baseball in the Heat-Summer Edition’ very soon.

In the meantime, Stay cool, friends, and have a great Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

Thank a Coach!

Thank you to our coaches who give so much

of their energy and time to helping our kids

learn the game of baseball and softball.

They are VOLUNTEERS, which means that they CHOOSE to be there!

Thank you for teaching good sportsmanship,

not to give up,

and how to be part of a team.

We thank you all so much for everything you do!

Is your Athlete Coachable?

My son attended a baseball camp with Greg McMichael, former pitcher with the Atlanta Braves.  At the beginning of camp, he sat the boys down and talked to them a for a bit, the parents got to stand in the back and listen to what he had to say.  He had a wealth of knowledge, a ton of experience, and was great to listen to.  One thing that he said really stuck with me.  It was, “I can tell which boys are going to be the BEST players by how much they LISTEN.”  This has stuck with me for a few years.  It is true.

My husband and I have managed/coached 2 teams a year over the past 5 years.  We have seen the “coachable” players that have been an absolute pleasure to coach and be around.  We’ve also seen the ones that are constantly talking, running their mouth, arguing with everything you say, wanting to “prove” themselves.

The “coachable” ones will go far in life.  They are hungry for information.  They are willing to learn.  They are willing to do what you suggest to help them get better.  They are respectful and well mannered.  They ride the wave with you.  They are not doormats but they do what you suggest and keep trying…and with a great attitude.

The coach makes a huge difference in the learning and motivation of your child but if you are fortunate enough to have an awesome coach that you trust, then it’s much more crucial to be a “coachable” kid…and to be “coachable” parents, too.

The talkative/argumentative players keep talking about how THEY think things should be.  I was warming up with the softball girls at practice, throwing pop fly balls so they could practice their catching.  One softball girl actually said to me that she was “too good to be doing this”.  I was stunned that a child would actually say such a thing about basic fundamentals… but… she was the one who later as the pitcher, missed catching a basic pop fly as it came to her in a game.

We are never “too good” to keep trying.

We are never “too good” to keep working HARD.

We are never “too good” to listen.

and never EVER “too good” to keep learning…

Every. Single. Day.

Catcher

 

 

Opening Week of Braves Baseball

Opening SeriesThis time last Monday, we woke up with such excitement over Opening Day of Atlanta Braves Baseball.

Finally…after five L O N G months!

For us, it was Spring Break and we were happy!  My husband was off from work and kids were out of school.  Perfect.  The game was at 4:00 and it was a beautiful weather day.

Baseball Pancake
They were not the most beautiful, but they were fun and tasty.

I was so excited that I made baseball pancakes.  🙂

They were not the most beautiful, but they were fun and tasty.

As we were making our way downtown to the ballpark, we were met with many other cars on the highway in the middle of the afternoon!  Apparently, many other people were headed to Turner Field, too!  Awesome!  There was such an excitement in the air of the season to come.  It turned out to be a sold out crowd that night.  Excellent!

We usually go early for batting practice so maybe the kids can catch a homerun ball or maybe the players on the field will throw them one.  We save every ball.  I hope the players realize how much it means to our kids when they throw them a ball.  I especially love it when the players interact and can be funny.  With a simple friendly gesture, they quickly become our kids’ heroes.

Batting Practice
Batting Practice game 2
Pitchers
These guys are the best at throwing balls to the crowd

We ended up going to 3 games this week and the Lead-off Luncheon.  It was so much fun.  The Lead-off Luncheon involves the players and coaches.  One player or coach sits at every table.  This year we were able to sit with Alexi Ogondo, relief pitcher.  Williams Perez sat at the table next to us, and Jose Ramirez sat at the table on the other side of us.  I was also able to see some friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time, so it was a very memorable day.  I was very proud of my children.  Not only did they handle themselves very well, they dressed up nice, thought the food was incredible (it was), and they thought it was the coolest thing ever to be eating lunch in the same room as their favorite players.  I have to agree.

Leadoff Luncheon
Chip Caray was interviewing Kelly Johnson, Freddie Freeman, Jeff Francouer, and Jason Grilli.  You see Williams Perez in the foreground, light blue shirt, gray jacket
Luncheon 2
You see Alexi Ogondo right in the front in blue checkered shirt, dark jacket

We always love to see our friends at the ballpark.  We have been season ticket holders for a few years now, so we get to see the same people.  Years ago, we started talking to one fellow, George, who works in the area where the kids can run the bases.  He’s been there now for 10 years.  We go see George every game we attend.  He is always kind, genuine, and happy.  Our kids don’t go to the run the bases anymore but we always go say hello. We found a picture of him from several years ago as we were taking a picture of our kids running the bases when they were small.  It is so neat to look back and notice someone in your pictures that you didn’t realize you would know later.

The Braves this week have had more than their share of struggles.  They are 0-5.  But, our happiness is not based on whether they win or lose.  I hope one day soon they can figure out what makes this new team work and find their success.

If you haven’t been following the Braves very closely. Here’s the scoop:  Over the past 2 years or so, the Braves have gone through a rebuilding process that has included many trades, trying to get rid of long term high paying contracts and focusing on the farm system (minor league teams) and building them up (home grown) to become our primary Major League Players.  It has been a painful process that has resulted in some of our higher playing favorites to be traded and to grow these younger guys properly to get them ready for our Major League team.  It is also a very long process that might take a couple of years still, but the end result will be a winning team that will produce major results.  The eye being on the World Series Title.  a.k.a. the “Long Range Plan”

We will still enjoy the games at Turner Field.  We are not fair-weathered fans.  Is it painful to watch what they are go through??  YES!!!  But, dark days do not last forever.  They will be great again someday!  Remember the Braves in the 90s??

Attending games at Turner Field is something we enjoy and with the family and friends we get to spend time with.  Just the other night, we ran into 2 families that we knew and they said to me, “We knew you would be here” and I will be.  One night, I looked up onto the Jumbo Tron and saw my high school friend, John, answering a question for a contest and won a $100 gift card to Home Depot.  I was able to go find him and later met his family.

So, as our kids go back to school today and my husband goes back to work, I will fondly remember a really good week together.  We enjoyed sleeping in, doing some fun family things, and cheering on our Atlanta Braves.

Go Braves!

Fireworks
Friday Night Fireworks at Turner Field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Week Until Opening Day!

We are so excited for a new season of Atlanta Braves Baseball!  Go Braves!!

One week

Pressure

Pressure.   The pressure that parents put on their kids. It is sad.

Today our 2 kids played 3 games again.  1 baseball/2 softball.

The Situation… Bases loaded… 2 outs… Bottom of the final inning.  The team is down by one run.  The count is 3-2… The batter hasn’t swung at any of the first 5 pitches.  Her parents begin yelling at her to “SWING THE BAT!  SWING THE BAT!”  She glares at her parents…

On the next pitch, a ball out of the strike zone, a pitch she normally wouldn’t swing at, she started her swing but stopped it… called strike 3 on the check swing!  Game Over…

What would have been a base on balls and tie game…

All because her parents were putting heated pressure on her to swing the bat.

I find this sad.  This is supposed to be fun.

Last week we heard a coach completely LOSE it on the field because he was SCREAMING at HIS OWN CHILD during a practice!  Why?  This is supposed to be fun.

We also heard another mom last week, who was a self-proclaimed softball superstar in college, telling her daughter whether or not to swing at a pitch as the ball IS IN MID-FLIGHT!

Why?  This is supposed to be fun.

With this tremendous pressure that parents are placing on their kids, it is going to drive them away from doing something they love, or something that they are really good at.

Why can’t they be there to celebrate in the good times and encourage in the bad times?

I wish parents could just enjoy watching their kids play…

At this game today, not only did this girl feel like she let her parents down, she felt like she let her team down.  That is too much responsibility for one to have because her parents put tremendous pressure on her to do something she wasn’t comfortable doing…  She is a decent hitter and had a good chance to make the right decision at the plate.

My kids have both struggled at the plate recently… it’s been hard for them.  But today our daughter went 2-2 in her first game and walked twice in her second game.  Why?  Because of her HARD WORK!  She has been taking extra batting practice and working with “Coach Dad” to get better.  She could have easily gotten discouraged and walked away from softball forever!  But no!  We have encouraged her.  She knows that her parents believe in her and support her.  NO MATTER WHAT!  In good times and in bad times! Today, we CELEBRATED with her!  We TRUSTED her and she BLOSSOMED!

There was definitely no screaming involved.

Sarah Softball
The pitch was low and away.  She went for it and NAILED it!

Kids need just their parents to BELIEVE in them!

One day these high pressure parents are going to be surprised at the answer when they ask, “You don’t want to play ball anymore?”

2 3watermark

Ballpark Shoes can look NEW again

Do you have any shoes that have gotten super dirty and think they can’t be saved?  Do you dread having to buy your kids more shoes because they are so muddy and hate cleaning them?

Being a mom and coach of baseball, it never fails that my tennis shoes get dirty.  Really dirty… with Red Georgia Clay from the field, or mud, or grass.  Every year I try to have an extra pair of shoes just for the field.

Sometimes it is just not possible to have an extra pair of shoes.  Years ago, my arch collapsed and planters fasciitis set in, so it became imperative to have good shoes, especially when I am on my feet in the dugout or running drills with the boys on the field.  These shoes are so expensive, I was forced to find a way to clean them.

My favorite cleaning trick is whitening toothpaste and an old toothbrush!  It works wonders on solid leather tennis shoes.

If your shoes are solid leather, when you rinse them, the inside of the shoes will not get wet.  Look at the difference when I scrubbed one side of my shoe with the whitening toothpaste and an old toothbrush.  These were my “baseball shoes” from a year ago, so this is not fresh dirt…it still came off and looks like NEW.

shoes

Recently, due to new problems in my feet, I was forced to get a different kind of tennis shoe.  They have mesh on the sides and top, so when I tried to wash the soles using the toothbrush and toothpaste, the inside of the shoe got wet.  Not good.  I had to find a new way to clean them….

Perfect Example:  Yesterday, the family and I went to the ballfield to practice hitting and fielding.  I love to get out there with them and run around.  We have had so much rain here, the outfield was like a marsh pit.  The soles of my shoes got so packed with mud (since they are my only athletic shoes now) I had to do something.

20160222_082541I scraped off as much dirt outside as I could, but still my shoes were a mess.  I found 2 Foil Lasagna pans in my kitchen that I had never used, and put them to work.  Don’t worry, I won’t be using them now for Lasagna!  I put some hot water (just enough to cover the bottom) and a squirt of Dawn Dishwashing Detergent.  I swished around the detergent until it produced some bubbles and put a shoe in each pan.  I was careful not to get the water too high in the pan so the inside of my shoes would get wet.

I soaked them for about 20 minutes and was pleased to find that most of the dirt had come off and out of those pesky little grooves on the sole of the shoe.  I still used my toothbrush to scrub out the dirt in those tiny places.  My shoes were so dirty and packed with field dirt (mud really) that my shoes required a second soak.  Overall, I am pleased with the results.  I was able to remove about 99% of it.  Not bad since my shoes were really bad off.

 

20160222_094351
I wish I had taken a “before” picture.  The bottom of my shoes were packed with wet field dirt.

What you will need:

  • An old tshirt to wear because if you are using any brush to scrub, there is a good chance it’s going to splatter
  • For good solid Leather shoes, you will need a spare tube of Whitening Toothpaste and an old toothbrush: Please don’t use the same tube of toothpaste to brush your teeth with.  This tube of toothpaste will be declared, “For Cleaning Only” as will the toothbrush.  Eek! Lol!
  • Two Foil Lasagna pans that you can find in any grocery store. I like them because they are bendable and you can bend the pan to get to the parts of the shoe that need it most.
  • Paper Towels
  • HOT water. Fill it with just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and to the desired height to surround the sole of the shoe.
  • Dawn dishwashing detergent. I added a squirt in each pan and stirred with my fingers to produce the bubbles.  This solution will break up the dirt in the little grooves of the bottom of the shoe.
  • A toothbrush. A great tool to use for those tiny, hard to reach places.
  • After scraping as much dirt off outside that you can, let the sole of the shoes soak for about 10-15 minutes, check and see what dirt has been loosened or falling off. My shoes were so bad, I needed a second soak.  I would not recommend leaving your nice shoes in for a super long period of time as it is not good for the rubber soles.

My kids have always appreciated when I can work on their dirty, yucky, shoes and give them new life.  As they get older, it is something they can work on, too.  With a lot of desire, and a little bit of effort, it is always rewarding to make something feel and look new again.