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More Lessons from the Little White Ball

by Matthew Arnold Stern

I've learned a lot of lessons from my son's experience in Little League. I recently learned an important lesson: When to let go.

I was looking forward to another exciting spring season of baseball with my son. I was on his Little League's Board as secretary. I had signed up to be an umpire and a scorekeeper. I couldn't wait to see him progress in his first full season in AA.

The problem was that he wasn't looking forward to baseball as much as I was. In fact, he wanted to quit. He said he didn't have his heart in baseball anymore, and that he didn't like how highly competitive the game was becoming. Baseball wasn't an obsession for him as it was for other kids, and it seemed that a kid had to be that obsessed about baseball to fit in with his team. My son wanted to try other things.

It was a hard thing for me to accept at first. I've met some great parents and kids in the League, and it was hard to leave them. I love baseball, but more importantly, I loved participating in it with him. It was something we could do together. Baseball gave us undivided time for us to spend together that work and home priorities couldn't infringe on.

But I also knew it was wrong for parents to force their kids to do something they don't want to do. It wasn't fair to him or his potential coaches and teammates. It was also unsafe because if you're not focused while playing a sport, you can get seriously injured. So, I let him quit. I asked for a refund and resigned from the Board.

We often look at quitting as a bad thing, but it can often free us to move on to something better. I quit one Boy Scout troop that I thought had too much favoritism. A year later, I joined the troop where I eventually earned my Eagle Scout. I left UCLA when I couldn't afford to go there anymore, but I earned my Bachelor degree with honors at Cal State Northridge. There are times that I regret quitting the clarinet, but I may not have had the time to excel in my studies in high school if I had played in the marching band.

It's also not reasonable to expect nine-year-olds to make a lifelong commitment to a sport or other activity. Children love experimenting, and they should have the freedom to do so. They can then discover what they truly love to do and where their passions and talents lie.  

If my son decides to return to baseball, it will because he truly loves the sport and wants to play. It won't be because I force him to. If he has the skill and passion for the game, he can make up whatever time he lost. If he finds an activity he prefers more and never plays baseball again, I would accept that.

As a parent, we need to know when to guide our children and when to let them go to discover on their own. I did the latter, even if it meant giving up the little white ball.


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