Give him a chance to earn his manhood

I recently posted a Facebook video shared to me by a family I’ve worked with.  It’s only 17 seconds long, but captures so much of what baseball means to me. This little dude (he’s 7!) gets hit by a pitch, and hit pretty good.  My focus is on how he reacts to the experience and all that goes into the 7-8 seconds AFTER being hit.  Check it out:

Now, I’m a big fan of this family and intend to follow this example of parenting (far bigger than coaching). So, I asked “Was this a conscious reaction, something you’ve done before, or did it jus happen?”  Dad’s response was fantastic and I really did take notes off of what he said.

First, let’s discuss what happened:

  1. The athlete gets crushed by a fastball and takes it correctly.  The shoulder turns in to protect the body and he wears it on the shoulder.
  2. He takes 7 seconds to compose himself, process what has just happened, and “come back to center.”
  3. Tosses the bat and trots down to first

Now, let’s discuss why I think the short video is so powerful:

  1. This “might” happen in a big league game.  More common would be a big boisterous reaction or macho body language, mad-dogging the opposing pitcher and mouthing off with displeasure.
  2. No coach comes running to his side.  Strangely, I love this.  And I think it’s the best part.
  3. We can learn a specific skill for how to react to events like this, in baseball and in life.

I have a 4-year old boy, and a 1-year old girl.  Anyone with more than one kid knows just how much more relaxed a parent is the second time around.  It is a fact that a youngster will cry if the parent reacts “loudly.” If you stay calm, make sure your presence is known, but do not rush to immediately console, pick up, and cater to that little human… instead of crying and looking for you, they will dust themselves off and shake it off.  Heck, last night in bathtub, my 15-month old little girl tried to stand up and smacked her face on the side of the tub.  I audibly said, “whoah, that was a good one.”  And while I was sitting right next to her, she had caught herself and I knew she was okay.  As I moved to grab her, I caught myself and simply watched.  She did exactly that, came to her senses in a couple seconds, realized she was okay, and settled down with a mere 2-3 second whimper.

Getting back to #3 of why this video is powerful, here were my notes from my friend (the coach and father).  He had learned the steps from a mentor and was happy to pass them along.  Know this: It wasn’t a memorized reaction.  Rather, this IS was who he is… and a style of parenting and leadership that he believes it.  This is evident from the strong, well behaved, champions he calls kids.  Check it out:

Give them the opportunity to earn their manhood

Yes, I immediately thought to myself “what about girls?” But let’s take a deep breath and just use the example with a boy 🙂 This is a chance for a young person to earn their stripes!  To handle a scary and intense situation, and learn from it.  To realize that challenges will come and challenges will go, and you DO have control over how you react to it.  To build toughness, reinforce confidence, and develop the characteristics of a champion… all in about seven seconds.

  1. Get the athlete to their feet – “Restore his or her dignity” was how he put it.  So, if the athlete has been knocked down (and serious injury can be checked off the list), then DO help the athlete to their feet.
  2. Back off and give them space – Be careful not to put your hands all over the athlete and further confuse the physical system.  They’ve just experienced a trauma and need a bit of time to process it.
  3. Slow down – You can hear the first base coach (dad) say, “take your time, take your time.”  He shows love (it is clear that this boy knows without a doubt how loved he is) and allows the athlete the time and space to collect himself.

Watching the video over and over, I just love how he goes down to his knees, takes a couple seconds, then returns to standing, chucks the bat, and starts running to first base.  That’s what we do though, he’s been trained well – We don’t walk on a baseball field!  Love then takes over and Dad / Coach allows him to be 7.  The tears DO fall, and there IS still a comforting physical and emotional presence there to ensure all is okay.  But in that moment, this little stud has “earned his manhood.”  He has controlled his emotions and chosen how to react to a situation out of his control.  THAT is Life 101 and why baseball is so powerful.

Special kudos and thanks to Dad, for being an example we can learn from.  It takes a lot NOT to run to your own child’s side and try to make everything better.  But I believe he has made this child tougher and more resilient in a positive way.  Thanks for sharing this story and reacting the way you did.  Thanks for allowing baseball to teach, the way only it can.

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