When Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

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The cold weather is here, which means most of the outdoor sports activities are on hiatus until the spring. My fourth grade daughter played softball this fall, as she had been since the spring of second grade.

Fall softball isn’t heavy lifting here. There is a game on Saturday mornings and evening practice on Mondays after school. One Monday in early October, about three weeks before the season ended, we were getting ready to head out to one of these practices. My daughter suddenly declared that she is no longer good at softball and she didn’t want to go to practice.

I’ll add here that both of my children are possibly the most successful homebodies ever, so we get similar reactions whenever we go anywhere.  That said, we hopped in the car and all I heard the entire way was, “I’m not good anymore.” Over and over and over again.  It’s about a 10 to 15 minute ride, so I’m estimating that she may have said this approximately a hundred gazillion times. 

I parked the car at the field and she did not move. No motion to unbuckle her seat belt and she started reciting,”I can’t play anymore. I can’t hit anymore.  I don’t want to embarrass myself.  Everyone is going to laugh at me. Practice isn’t going to help,” like a broken recordMan, she’s really was not having it. I even called my husband  in Atlanta on business and put him on speaker phone. I’m not sure what I thought the call would accomplish. Maybe I just needed someone on “my side” for a moment. But we spoke about the goals of practice and how it’s an opportunity to hone your skills.  

After the call, although she still was teary and whiny, somehow I got her out of the car and we slowly strolled over to the field. And then, she stopped and froze. She wouldn’t walk over the team and practice. Now what? Is there protocol for this? What should I be doing?  At this point, I had done all I could to encourage her. Ultimately we turned around, hopped back into the car and headed home. Mom struck out – pun intended.

As I referenced earlier, my daughter has been playing for about two years. She might not be tops, but she’s done really well for herself. Her team won the championship last spring and she definitely was a full-on participant! My girl hit, got on base, earned RBIs and scored runs. She showed some nice skills! She was proud of this accomplishment!

She didn’t have a strong start this fall and as the weeks passed by, she seemed less and less confident and comfortable at the plate as she had in previous seasons. In the game a few days before the aforementioned attempted practice, she struck out three times. This appeared to kill her confidence, especially when the rest of the team was hitting the softball like it was the size of a basketball. 

My desire to scream to the coach was real. “You should have seen her last year! She was good! I swear!” I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s like when you get a new boss. You’ve been doing wonderfully at your job and when the new manager comes in, you feel like you need to prove yourself all over again!  

Fast forward to late October and the very last Monday practice of the season, and it was more of the same. She started in the field and did well. When she got up to bat though – nothing. Hardly a foul tip. She came over to me sadly and said she can’t hit anymore. We sat in the bleachers watching girl after girl hit ball after ball. “I’m the only one that can’t hit. Why am I the only one that can’t hit?” she expressed.

I had no answers for her. She certainly wasn’t buying the “practice makes perfect” mantra. 

Even though we always chat about the meaning of being on a team, something selfish and a little mean brewed inside my heart. As each adorable girl got up to bat, I desired for at least one of the girls to struggle like my girl was. I kept this to myself and I’m not proud of it, yet I just wanted my daughter not to feel so alone.   

The coaches always end games and practice with having the girls race around the bases. Funny enough, that’s actually when you hear the most excitement out of the girls! They love it! The coach called all the girls to the field to start the race. As down as she was about not hitting, my girl perked up and left my side to join her team to race on the bases. I grabbed my things to head over too, but I lagged behind a bit. 

As I approached the baseball field, I notice her running back towards me crying with her eyeglasses in her hand. She had tripped and fell as she was running over to join her team to race. Really universe? This set her off in hysterics. It was the icing on the cake. She was trying to be strong and participate with her team – and was kicked in her cute little butt again.   he wasn’t only hurting emotionally, but now physically too! Poor thing!

The end of the season couldn’t come soon enough!

Honestly, I enjoy going to the games and practices. I love observing the comradery and fostering the important lessons being on a team teaches. My daughter’s play just wasn’t on par with how she’s done in the past and I know she felt it deeply. That’s a huge blow to a kid. And particularly when it’s with something they’d been pretty good at and “all of a sudden” it becomes a bit of a struggle. 

As the parent, seeing your child feel like they’re not succeeding is heart wrenching – especially when you observe hard they are trying.

No one expects softball to be the end-all and be-all for my daughter. She’s amazing and has so many other talents! I know that and so does she.  If she’s not good at sports, so what, right? She’ll find her niche, whether it be art, music, science, etc. Seems simple enough, yet it’s a bummer if she wants to keep with the sport and her skills do not continue to improve. 

Team sports get increasingly competitive. If only it could just be for fun! This day and age it’s challenging to continue on with playing organized sports if you don’t make a travel team. For example, my daughter played soccer in her early elementary school years. Tryouts for travel started in second grade! Unlike many of her teammates and friends, she did not make the travel teams. She enjoyed soccer as well, but basically received the message, “Nope, this may not be for you.” But that’s a topic for another post

In the last game of the season in late October, my girl got up to bat only once during the game. She got a hit and made a nice play in the field. Thankfully the season ended on a positive note. Immediately it was evident that she felt a thousand times better about herself.  So maybe my worries are all for naught? I’m overthinking and jumping the gun, as one “off” season won’t break her, right? Her woes could be as simple as needing to swing earlier. Who knows?  

All our lives we’ve been told “practice makes perfect.” Keep practicing, keep trying, you’ll see improvement and results. What happens when you don’t? When do you call it day? And what type of message does this deliver in regards to other aspects of life? 

Time will tell which direction the conversation on the topic of sports will go, but the universe has certainly given me a bigger message to think about. As it’s likely the future holds a chat or two with my daughter in regards to similar scenarios in years to come.

How would you tackle this conversation with your child(ren)?

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Melissa Jacobowitz is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (b 2004) and daughter Mia (b 2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. Melissa initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. She was also a contributing writer with Suburban Misfit Mom and you can find her stories at http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/writer/melissa-jacobowitz/ Melissa is also a featured writer in the book “A Dark Secret,” which is a compilation of where 15 women share their stories of maternal mental illness from diagnosis to recovery. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes that you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising a teenagers growing up here in Westchester.