Raising a Mets Fan

Real Sports Highlights Parents Youth Sports Dilemma

When Derek Jeter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he went to the set of MLB Network to talk about his career. During that time, he advocated for playing multiple sports as a kid. Sadly, the world is seemingly moving away from that.

Increasingly, parents are seeking to have their children specialize in just one sport. Worse yet, parents are doing it with children at younger and younger ages.

While this seems unhealthy (it is), it’s actually worse than imagined. On a recent episode of Real Sports, they highlighted how this has led to what doctors are referring to an epidemic of sports injuries among children.

Seeing young prepubescent children undergo the knife is shocking. What’s all the more troubling is hearing different statements from the children and their parents.

You heard the soccer players talk about how if they took some time off, time their bodies needed to recover, they fell behind. This meant the loss of an opportunity to fulfill dreams of playing collegiate soccer. For some, that could mean the loss of a much needed athletic scholarship.

Others spoke about how even though they’ll need knee surgeries and have early onset arthritis, they still love the sport and want to keep pushing themselves past their braking point.

It’s very easy to say these parents have lost all perspective and criticize them. Obviously, what they’re doing is crazy, and in the Real Sports segment, they actually admit it. Chances are, they got to this point very innocently.

Parents talk about the joy their children feel playing the sports while also clearly pained by what’s happening. In their faces, you see an inner dilemma and turmoil, and to date, they don’t have a solution.

Seeing what I see now from an athletic six year old, I’m surmising this is something which innocently happens at the outset.

At a young age, my son has been recruited to play for travel hockey and soccer teams. Yes, you read that correctly. A six year old is being recruited.

With those recruitments, we’ve heard pitches of an inside track to this high school or being able to work with that coach. As noted in the Real Sports article, youth sports is a big business now, and coaches want the best players to rack up wins and notoriety.

Going back to the kids for a moment, you see a difference between a child liking a sport and a child LOVING a sport.

What do you do when your child actually wants to play the same sport constantly? What do you do when your child strives to improve? What do you do when your child’s best friends are on those teams?

When viewed through that prism you begin to see this less as parents being monsters who abdicate their perspective, and you begin to see parents as people who were just trying to do their best and lost their perspective.

These youth leagues shoulder much of the blame. They’re the supposed experts who are supposed to direct you onto the right path. Lost in that is their existence is fueled by you doing more and more and not necessarily by doing what’s right by the children.

So what do you, as parents do?

First and foremost, don’t sign up your child for a team unless you trust the coaches. If those teams are worth their salt, they’ll speak with you beforehand. Personally, I knew we found the right team when the coach preached playing multiple sports and taking a break.

You see parents are not immediately aware of burnout and fatigue. Aside from the risks shown by Real Sports, at some point, a child will get sick of playing the same thing all the time.

Another factor with playing other sports is they’re fun. It may not be as fun as the main sport, but it’s still fun. In those sports, your child not only works on other skills which will help them in other sports (for example, baseball is great for hand/eye coordination), but for parents, you get perspective.

You’ll see what other parents say about those sports. You also get out of the bubble. Your child gets to branch out, discover something new, and have fun.

It also doesn’t have to be a sport. It can be music lessons, or just sitting home and playing with Legos. Really, just something different. It’s helps your child, and it helps you better parent your child.

In the end, this is about your child’s health and enjoyment of life. When these sports start becoming professionalized at a young age, the fun is being drained from them, and with it comes increased injury. The sports won’t change, but the parenting can.

Overall, as parents, just remember you want happy and healthy children, and in the end, you’re really the only one with your child’s best interests in mind. Seek out advice from an array of sources, do your research, and in the end, trust your instincts.

All Time Is Quality Time

In his Medium article, Ryan Holiday writes about how the eternal search for quality time leads to disappointment. In reality, it’s that search which not only builds up these moments to live up to impossible lofty expectations, but it also has you missing the everyday magic.

It is an article well worth the time. In it, he discusses Jerry Seinfeld’s love of the mundane and how Holiday has loved his time just waiting.

Reading it brought me back to different moments. There are those times I’m driving in my car, and my son innocently begins a conversation by saying, “Daddy?” in that one tone where I know he has something important he wants to say.

It’s those moments my youngest just randomly starts singing a song and gets all excited when you start singing with him.

Honestly, Holiday is right. With your family, the best things happen everyday, and the moments don’t need to be manufactured. They’re already there, and they’re coming when you least expect it.

For example, yesterday, I was making macaroni and cheese for lunch. Next thing I know, my oldest wants to help. So while the pasta is boiling, I have him measuring out the milk and butter.

As is usually the case, when my oldest is doing something, the youngest needs to do it too. Suddenly, after I drain the pasta, the two of them, not me, are stirring the ingredients together.

This was a completely organic moment which happened for no other reason than the family was spending time together. To me, this was Holiday’s point. From the seemingly mundane came the real magic.

Happy Birthday

Six years ago, I was up for literally awake for 21 hours straight, and I was scared out of my mind as I rushed to the NICU. In short order, I went from the most scared I’ve ever been to the happiest I’ve ever been.

In those moments, I never knew you’d throw out a first pitch at a baseball game. You’d be playing in a hockey tournament, or that you’d have the highest test scores of anyone in town.

To my buddy, the smartest, most handsome, warmest, nicest,and special person I know, Happy Birthday!

Youth Coaching Strategy: Separate Children Based On Ability

Since my son was old enough to play recreational sports, I have either coached or helped coach some of his teams. Those sports have included soccer, t-ball, and flag football. Due to a number of circumstances, including soccer being year round in my town, I have had the most experience coaching soccer.

There are many challenges to coaching youth sports, but personally, I have found the biggest challenge to be just how to handle children of vary skills and interest. That applies not just to games but also to practice.

When it comes to my town, there were services available where they had some coaches from organizations attend your practice to show useful coaching strategies. I had adapted some of those drills while ignoring those I felt were not useful. Overall, I had initially followed the strategy of one game plan for everyone.

I’ve come to realize that doesn’t work.

Like many coaches, I had tried to balance the lineups to ensure as good a game as possible. There was one game where I realized this was a big mistake. My son had stolen a ball, and he went up field to score what was his 12th goal of the game.

12th.

By around his fourth goal, I had called him over to say to him he needs to be passing the ball more and incorporating his teammates. The problem was there were really no teammates for him to pass the ball.

While he was charging up the field with the ball, there was one kid who decided on his own he needed a break, so he walked off the field to sit down. Two of his other teammates were engaged in an epic leaf throwing fight. Finally, the last teammate was honestly just afraid of the ball.

This isn’t good for anyone. The kid afraid of the ball doesn’t have to engage because he knows there is going to be another player to take care of it. The kids having the leaf fight don’t need to pay attention because there is a savior. While that is happening, my son is basically playing by himself learning little to nothing about teamwork.

After that game, I developed A and B squads for the team. Essentially, I’ve split up players based on ability.

Admittedly, this was at first a disaster. In the first game, the “A” squad ran up the score on the opponent, while the “B” squad completely squandered away the lead and then some. This led to frustrated parents for both teams. That’s the worst possible scenario.

To mitigate against that, I have taken the time to reach out to the coach my team is going to face prior to the scheduled game. I inform him or her of the strategy I will be implementing. While some do not at all agree, they eventually acquiesce because they want to see a good game and not a completely one-sided affair.

That’s what happens. A good game. In fact, it is a much better game.

With the better players on the field, there is a higher level of play. At the Kindergarten level, I’ve since seen more team oriented play both in terms of defense and offense. There is passing, and partially because these kids play with each other more, there is actually communication on the field.

As for the B squad, something exciting began to happen. With them only playing against players with a similar skill set, they have had more of an opportunity to play competitively. With that, the leaf fights have drastically reduced, and the players who walked off the field out of boredom are now more engaged. They actually have a chance to touch the ball. In fact, players who would not have previously touched a ball would actually score a goal.

That has brought about a greater sense of both interest and pride in these children. With that has come some real improvement.

The splitting up of these players is something I have carried into practice. Now, the key there is to not necessarily let the children know they are being split up based upon ability.

For example, during passing drills, children of similar abilities are paired together. During those drills, the very basics are instilled on the players with a lower skill set. With the players who are better, I have them focus on using their not dominant foot. As a result, while everyone is doing everything as a team, they are still getting the more focused attention to help them improve as soccer players.

This can be carried out in all aspects of the practice.

Instead of scrimmages, smaller team games are preferable. Have 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 games. You can also have scrimmages happening simultaneously. Split your A squad in half and have them play against one another while having your B squad playing against each other.

In the end, it is important to remember part of coaching is helping everyone on your team improve. For your best players, dominating bad players isn’t helping them at all. For your worst players, never getting to touch the ball not only doesn’t help them, but it also serves to help them lose interest in the sport.

In the end, this is not a cure-all, and it is not perfect. Some children are never going to have interest in a particular sport, and there are some who have attention issues. You’re not going to resolve that over a two month season. There are also going to be times where you only have so many players show up to a game thereby blowing up your plan completely.

However, what this will do is permit you to foster an environment where everyone can improve on their game while also giving everyone an opportunity to play in a competitive game where they have a chance to make a real impact on a game. This will leave them feeling good about themselves and wanting to play more, which at the end of the day, is the primary objective for anyone coaching children.

Tommy Pham Should Inspire You To Have A Catch With Your Kid

In terms of his Major League career, it hasn’t been easy going for Tommy Pham. He would need to overcome a lot just to stand on the field during this ALDS.

Pham had a number of injuries in the minors, but it was keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition, which eventually causes blindness. In fact, Pham is legally blind in one eye. Fortunately, he’d have vision and career saving surgery.

As his surgeon, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler would say of Pham, “If somebody would tell me an individual could play Major League Baseball with keratoconus, I’d say, ‘Absolutely not.’ Only Tommy Pham. I think Tommy is one in a million.” (Derrick Goold, St. Louis Dispatch).

After a terrific 2017, where he had a 6.2 WAR, Pham would struggle in 2018. This led to his clashing with his manager, Mike Matheny, who would eventually be fired for tumult like this. Ultimately, Pham fell out of favor with the Cardinals leading to his getting traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Cardinals loss is the Rays gain. That was all the more apparent with Pham having a strong 2019 season for the Rays.

Pham hit a big homer in the Wild Card Game, and in Game 4 of the ALDS with the Rays facing both elimination and Justin Verlander, Pham’s homer in the top of the first set the tone for the Rays who’d win 4-1.

After the 4-1 victory, Pham was asked about who he wanted to thank for getting to this point in his career, and he would answer himself for never giving up.

He talked about throwing a ball to himself and throwing a ball up so he could hit it. Now, these are things we all did as kids. However, unlike many of us, that was Pham’s only option because he didn’t have a dad growing up.

Hearing that shows you the dedication and drive Pham had to get to this point. It also shows you the love of the game for him to do that. It shows how he can overcome all obstacles including not having a dad and a degenerative eye disorder.

This makes Pham both a role model and an inspiration.

He also should serve as a reminder to take time for your kids. We all get you’ve had a long day at work, and you’re exhausted. Dinner needs to be made. Homework needs to get done. There are practices, music lessons, and so much more.

What we also have is plenty of time during the week. At some point during those seven days, we can easily find time to dust off our mitts and have a catch with our kids. If your kid isn’t into baseball, then something else.

Kick a soccer ball. Throw a football. Fly a kite. Play tag. Something. Anything.

Fact is you have an opportunity Pham didn’t. That’s to have that father-son relationship. Cherish it. Take advantage o it.

You can start by throwing some BP.

How Parents Can Best Prepare Themselves For Kindergarten

Everywhere you look, there are guides to how parents can best prepare their children to attend Kindergarten. Like most of those things, most of them are grossly incomplete, and they lack the nuance of how children are individuals with different needs. What is interesting about each of these reads is they focus on what parents need to do for their children, but very few of them focus on what parents need to do for themselves.

The long story short is you should do what you think is best as a parent.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is to do all the things you think is best to prepare your child. The more you feel you prepared your child for Kindergarten, it is very likely the better you will feel. From my family’s perspective, that meant a year (plus) of planning.

We found a pre-school which prepared our child very well academically. In our case, I can saw he was a little too prepared academically leaving us scrambling at the last minute to see if there was a school better suited to his academic needs. At least in our area, there really wasn’t, especially when we balanced the other non-academic needs of our child.

I can say that experience did give us the benefit of being more secure in our original decision. The moral of the story here is do whatever you can to make yourself as secure as you possibly can in your decisions. At least personally, when I know I have made the best possible and informed decisions, I feel more comfortable.

The next thing we did is we looked at our town, and we found as many recreational sports as we could find. In the Spring, we signed our son up for t-ball and soccer. This put him in a position to have to meet new children in an unfamiliar situation to make new friends.

As an aside, our hope was he would be in a class with some of those kids and friends. Unfortunately, my son would not be in a class with any of those children. That said, he is on the playground with those children at recess, so he does have the opportunity to play with them. Knowing he has that level of comfort did help prepare us emotionally.

Beyond that, we did a lot to try to prepare our child and ourselves. This involved going well beyond simple triple checking. Each one of these things helped us feel more comfortable and ready. All of that helped us until Labor Day. There is nothing that can prepare you for the next day . . . the day you put your child on the bus to go to their first day.

To put it in perspective, my son had been in day care when he was nine months old. I was more than accustomed to dropping him off. However, with day care and pre-school, you have apps and updates with fun pictures and the like. You could call at a moment’s notice to find out how he’s doing. If you child was having a bad day, you could pick him up early without explanation, or when needed, you could keep him home on those days he needs it. If needed, you could just switch your child to another location without a moment’s notice.

While many of these things remain true (except the app updates with photos), Kindergarten is just different, and you know it as a parent. It kept me up all night. I remember getting out of bed at 1:30 to make waffles to make sure my son had one of his favorite breakfasts ready for his first day. It was either doing that or sheer exhaustion which helped me fall asleep.

In any event, my son hopped on the bus without incident. He flashed us a smile, and he waved to us as the bus pulled away. Being the completely sane individual I am, I rushed back to my car, and I followed the school bus to the school and made sure he got off the bus and into the school all right.

After that, it was time to go stir crazy not knowing how he was doing or what they were doing. It doesn’t matter where you will be. You will feel that as well. Just find the best way to distract yourself. That could be work, or doing something else. For my family, that meant taking our youngest to the zoo and having a fun day with him as we counted the minutes until the school day ended.

The long and short of it is we survived the day. Our son handled the day well, certainly much better than we did. I can also say the ensuing days were increasingly better. As we put him on the school bus this morning, it already felt like routine.

Ultimately, that’s the best thing to tell parents. Wait it out until it becomes routine because it will. When you look back, you will laugh at yourself for how much wasted energy you had over the ordeal, especially when you see how much better your child responds to it all than you did.

 

 

Family Restrooms Are For Families Only

For those people who have been places with children and have had someone in the family needing to use the bathoom, former Major Leaguer Preston Wilson said what finally needed to be said:

This reminded me of an “incident” I recently had at Citi Field. To be fair, to call it an incident is probably overstating the case, but as a parent, I did assert my rights to use the designated family restroom with a family.

To put things in perspective, I have over an hour drive to get to the ballpark. After that, there is the process of putting sunscreen on the kids and then waiting on lines to enter the ballpark. After going up the escalator, the first thing my five year old tells me is he has to go to the bathroom. Honestly, at that point, who doesn’t?

In addition to my son having to use the bathroom, I have to change a baby’s diaper. That’s now two people who have to use the bathroom and a toddler who needs his diaper changed. This is the EXACT scenario why family restrooms exist. Of course, based on my personal experience, I have yet to come across a vacant family restroom at Citi Field.

That was until a few weeks ago. In this particular moment, the heaven’s seemed to open, and someone departed the family restroom just as I was walking towards it. With the family in tow, I made my way in as a group of adults stopped to alert me there was a line.

Again, a group of adults. No children in sight. They wanted to stop a family from using the . . . wait for it . . . family restroom.

With myself standing in the door frame, I politely asked if they had children who needed to use the restroom or had a baby who needed a diaper change. When they predictably said they didn’t, I told them they could wait and closed the door.

What is beyond stupid was there needed to be this exchange. It’s one thing to use the family restroom when no one is present. However, for the life of me, I cannot fathom the level of self entitlement involved in telling a family they need to wait so an adult can use a bathroom not designated for them.

These bathroms exist so parents can use the bathroom while keeping their children in a confined space where they don’t have to worry about them. These bathrooms exist to provide families with the space and privacy needed. They exist because if a child has an accident, you can change your child without them having to stand stark naked in the middle of a men’s or women’s room. It allows you to take care of multiple children at the same time without commotion.

These bathrooms are not for adults who like to do number two in a less used bathroom. They’re not there for adults convenience. These bathrooms aren’t for the public at large. They’re for people who actually need them. This is why Preston Wilson is 100% right saying those who use them are bad people.

Where To Find Noise Cancelling Headphones And Sensory Bags At Citi Field

Last Saturday was the loudest I’ve ever experienced Citi Field. With how loud the crowd was, it was honestly forcing me to make a choice. Considering I was at the game with my 19 month old, the noise level put me in a very difficult position. As big a game as that was no game is big enough to expose a child to that level of noise especially since there is evidence exposing children to that level of noise can create hearing loss.

The options available were to just watch the game from one of the suites my ticket afforded me access. There are issues with that especially since seating is limited, and on a more selfish note, you don’t get to have the full fan experience. If push comes to shove, you go to the suite, but at the same point, you really can only spend so much time there before you have to leave.

Of course, leaving the game was a possibility. However, I also had a five year old with me who was really excited for the game. Again, if push comes to shove, you don’t endanger one child for the other. However, if there was another solution, you find it just so you don’t have to upset your child (or effectively throwing away hundreds of dollars).

That left the best recourse being available being finding noise cancelling headphones. Now, if you go to the Citi Field Information Guide, there is ZERO information on how to obtain them. With this being the Mets, that initially left me wondering if there were ones for sale. I tried the Mets Dugout Shop for Kids (by Section 105), and I tried the Mets Team Store, but they did not sell them.

After that, I tried Fan Assistance. I was actually directed to a number of different places with some people surmising there may be earplugs available in one area. That was definitely not an option. Some recommended the Nurses’ Station, but that was just a guess. Undeterred, I walked through the ballpark until I found someone who finally knew what they were talking about and where to get them.

Finally, I had my answer. For those who are already annoyed on how this is like one of those recipe posts where you don’t care about the nonsense background, here is the information you need.

From the perspective of your entering the ballpark from the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, there is a Rotunda Ticket Services Office in the back left corner. When you enter, you have to fill out a form, and you will be given a “Sensory Bag” which includes fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones, weighted lap pads, and other sensory resources. Be forewarned, they will hold your driver’s license or other form of ID until you return the bag.

The noise cancelling headphones will fit your toddler’s head, and they will fit an adult’s head. They are adjustable. Being the parent I am, I first tried them on myself. They were uncomfortable, but they did really mute the surrounding noise. To that effect, they were quite effective.

HOWEVER, they are uncomfortable for toddlers. I spent most of the time trying to keep them on my child’s head. I spent much of the time being strategic with them taking them off of his head between innings to give him a break. I also made sure to walk around the ballpark a bit more, which honestly, is always the case when you bring a toddler to a game.

As noted, these are only for rent, and you need to return them to get your driver’s license back. Note, you do not return them to the Rotunda Ticket Services Office. Instead, you return them to the Lost and Found, which is located right next door. That office is only open for a half hour after the final out, so don’t delay.

For parents with small children or those in need of the sensory bags, I hope this information is helpful. For the Mets, this should serve as a lesson your ballpark staff needs to be better informed, and this information needs to be more easily accessible on your website because when I was in the ballpark, I had no idea nor should I have automatically known the information would have been attained by clicking on the Citi Field Accessibility Guide.

Nationals Offer Kids Free Meals At Games; Mets Should Follow Suit

Grant Paulsen of The Athletic reported the Washington Nationals are now offering free kid’s meals at games to children 12 years old and younger. According to the Nationals website this is a limited time offer from July 22 – September 2.

In order to obtain the free kid’s meal, parents have to go to Nationals.com and go through a free but tedious process. First, you have to link your MLB account to the Nationals Red Carpet Rewards Program. Once you have done that, you then have to register your children for their Nationals Kids Club. Once you have jumped through all of the hoops, the ticket for the kids meal will be available on the MLB Ballpark App.

The kids meal is actually a sufficient meal, especially for younger children. You receive a hot dog with your choice of chips or applesauce and a choice of water or a soda. According to the Nationals, that’s a $17 value. So, if you are bringing a couple of kids to the game, that’s $34 dollars in your pocket.

As a Mets fan, it will be interesting to see if the Mets follow suit here. It should be noted that while the Nationals’ Kids Club is free, the Mets isn’t. That costs either $35 or $55 depending on the level you select. Of course, the Mets Kids Club, or Mr. Met Club does come with “complimentary tickets.” Still, if the Mets can follow the Nationals lead on an inane backpack policy, they should be able to do so here when it comes to making it more affordable to bring kids to the ballpark.

Tips For Mr. Met Dash

On the last game before the All Star Break, I brought my son to the Mr. Met Dash. Once we got onto the field, he had the time of his life, and honestly, he has not stopped talking about it. He loved everything about the dash once he got onto the field. The key here being once we got onto the field.

Leading up until that point, it was exhausting for him and for me.

It was a hot and muggy day with the ballpark flooded with people due to it being Spiderman Bobblehead Day. There were lines all over the ballpark to get food and to hit the baseball behind center field. The Phillies were dominating the Mets. All-in-all, it was a pretty frustrating day at the ballpark.

Still, getting on the basepaths to run on the same field as the Mets players made it all worthwhile. A week later, and my son is still talking about how he ran the basepaths. Seeing his excitement, it is something I will consider doing again in the near future. Next time, I plan on doing it better. There are some ways.

First and foremost, if you belong to the Mr. Met Club, you get priority access. The members of the Mr. Mets Club get to run the bases before those who are not members. This along with four complimentary tickets to a Mets and Cyclones game along with other perks. The cost of the membership is $35 or $55 depending on the level of membership you purchase.

In terms of value, not having to wait in that line, the trinkets, and the tickets are probably well worth the money. Of course, the issue I had in the past was remembering to bring the lanyard with me to the games to get some of the perks. Also, in year’s past the tickets were for weekday games which are difficult to attend. So in the end, it’s not for everyone.

If you don’t want to spend the money on the Mr. Met Club, there is still another way to get priority access. Before the game, Citi Perks sets up a table atop the escalators above the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. If you have a Citi card (or ask nicely enough), they will give you a pass to get priority access.

Even with the priority access, the lines are LONG. For example, the lines of just the Mr. Met Club members and Citi Perks ticket holders stretched from the bullpen area to the parking lot on Seaver Way. If you want to get to the front of that line, you are going to have to leave during the game.

To get to the front of that line, you are going to have to leave around the seventh inning stretch. The downside is you’re missing the rest of the game and have to wait around for the game to end. In a game the Mets are losing 8-3, that’s not as big of a deal. If it’s a close game or the Mets are winning, it’s a completely different story. In the end, it really is a matter of just how much you want to get on that line and back to your car to get home.

Two other important factors. First, carry some cash on you. If it’s a hot day like it was on Sunday, you’re going to be dying of thirst after running the bases. When you exit the ballpark after running the bases, there is a vendor there selling soda and water (at ballpark prices). He accepted cash only when I was there.

Second, there is not re-admittance into the ballpark. For some reason, that also includes the team store. Accordingly, if you want to get your kid a souvenir, you need to get it before heading on line for the Mr. Met Dash. It’s a small lesson I learned as my son wanted to get his Pete Alonso All-Star shirt.

All that considered, even if you don’t have priority access, doing the Mr. Met Dash is well worth it. Even though they try to usher you off the field once you touch home plate, you will have a moment or two to take a picture with your kid on the field. There are plenty of families there who want family photos are will be amenable to the normal swap of taking family photos.

There’s one other thing people won’t tell you. No one is checking your ticket before you get in line or get on the field. Accordingly, if you are so inclined and are in the neighborhood, you can just hop on the line and have your child run the bases without even attending the game. Just a thought.