Imagine this situation.
Your seven year old doesn’t just love hockey. He lives and breathes it. He practices and practices, and he gets so good, he gets an incredible opportunity.
Despite being a younger seven year old, he gets called up to play a Squirt game. There’s this little boy on the ice with 10 year olds. They just tower over him.
Undaunted, he steals the puck, goes the length of the ice. Despite getting knocked down by a larger kid, he gets the shot off, and he scores. He’s beyond excited, and just like he’s done since his first ever game, he looks to the crowd to look for his family cheering and giving him a thumbs up.
Except, they’re not there. Instead, it’s 19 degrees outside, and dad is sitting in a car desperately trying to get WiFi so he can watch this game.
Now, imagine finding out in another part of the state, parents were huddled together getting to watch their children on the ice. They got to see their children skating, but your child didn’t get to see his smiling and cheering family because of what now appears to be a completely arbitrary and capricious decision.
Well, that was my Sunday.
How is this allowed, but parents can’t watch their kids play hockey? This is the American Dream mall in NJ. Logic please? @GovMurphy @GunaRockYa @NJDeptofHealth @AlyanaAlfaro @kurtsiegelin @dracioppi @AAHAGlenn @NJYHL @MurryGunty @AtlanticDistr @NewsFallon @ActualAlexZ @mbzhad pic.twitter.com/WG4lKySXfR
— Ogie Ogelthorpe (@NopeyaDope) January 30, 2021
In that boondoggle that is the American Dream mall, parents were permitted to stand and watch their children skate. However, if that was a hockey game, they would’ve been cleared out because no spectators are permitted for youth hockey games.
Those people are masked, and the groups appear six feet apart. According to every COVID protocol we know, there’s nothing wrong with that. As hockey parents, that’s all we want.
But, we can’t. Believe it or not, we’re not even permitted to attend outdoor games. For some reason, that’s also not allowed.
Over the course of this season, kids have scored goals or made great saves. They’ve fallen and gotten hurt. They’ve had big wins and tough losses.
When those kids needed a reassuring face or a hug, there’s no one there. They just need to hope the WiFi was working so you could see the moment, and/or know they have to now try to convince someone at the arena they need to be allowed to enter.
Again, if this was an open skate or a skating lesson in a mall, this wouldn’t be an issue.
All hockey parents want is to see their children play. They’re happy and willing to do the temperature checks, fill out the waivers, wear as many masks as required, and stay as far away from everyone else as is required.
If it’s alright for a mall, it should be alright for a rink who has far less traffic and is better able to sanitize between games and events.
This isn’t pretending there isn’t a pandemic. It’s also not pretending there isn’t a need for safety measures. Making those counter-arguments purposefully misses the point.
Rather, this is about fairness. It’s about families and children.
So long as social distancing measures can be accomplished in an arena, and it can by marking off seats six feet apart like they do in restaurants where people eat unmasked, at least one parent per child should be permitted inside to watch their child play a game.
Really, this isn’t too much to ask.
We want to be there to celebrate. We don’t want to miss seeing them do what they love more than anything. Mostly, we want to be there to give them a hug to celebrate or to let them know it’s going to be alright.
Sadly, we can’t do that. Instead, we sit in idling cars in freezing temperatures hoping to get a glimpse. We hope not to miss anything, and we hope some day, someone will not punish our children and families because our kids are playing hockey.
Until then, we will all do what we need to do to permit our children to be able to play just like we’ve done all year. We’ll wait until we’re treated the same as that person eating in a restaurant, shopping in a crowded mall, or watching their child participate in a non-hockey ice event.
By and large, the NFL having a playoff game on Nickelodeon was a massive success. When you looked at it, there really wasn’t anyone with a true negative thing to say about the game.
At my house, my son wasn’t as enamored with the graphics. As he put it, “It’s not really slime; it’s graphics.” However, he loved how great a job Nate Burleson did teaching the game.
Specifically, he said he thought Burleson did a great job explaining the red zone. With the fun graphics, he got a better understanding of the sport there. He also had fun with the other kid friendly things like the NVP.
Like me, he was also disappointed there was no slime. It seemed like a big missed opportunity, but based on what we saw, it should happen next year.
And it should happen again. As a parent, I liked being able to put my kid in front of a sporting event and not have to worry about the commercials. I also really thought they did an extraordinary job explaining the game while not pandering or condescending to the kids.
On another important note, I’m not a special needs parent, but seeing the reaction on social media, it was a success for those families as well:
My son loves @Nickelodeon but has never sat and watched a football game with me UNTIL today… I appreciate Nick introducing our kids to the game in a fun & entertaining way!! pic.twitter.com/Ofru2DfZbq
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) January 10, 2021
My autistic son is absolutely glued to the @Nickelodeon simulcast of this Wild Card game. So, yeah, it’s great to see.
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) January 11, 2021
What the NFL did yesterday was truly remarkable. They need to be commended, and if you’re another league, they need to be replicated.
That goes double for baseball. We hear time and again people lament how kids aren’t following the game like their parents and grandparents. We hear about their difficulties attracting newer and younger fans.
Well, the NFL just gave it to them. They now have their template.
If you’re MLB, you should be more daring. This shouldn’t just be a single postseason game. Instead, they should have a game of the week with a children’s network.
Yesterday, we saw Nickelodeon could handle it. We also know MLB has a relationship with Disney by and through ESPN. It makes you wonder if they could instead opt to have a game on the Disney Channel.
As an aside, we know MLB and ESPN agreed to cancel the weekday games on Monday and Wednesday. Those are two days available right there to have the games.
Now, this is where people clamor for afternoon weekend games. That’s a mistake waiting to happen. At that time, parents are out with kids running to practice, games, recitals, birthday parties, and much more. The weekend afternoon is when kids are not at home.
And if they are home, they’re outside playing with their friends. They aren’t going to be cooped up in their living rooms when they can be outside playing or swimming.
No, the best time to do this is the weekday afternoon games. They could make the game start around 5:00 or 6:00 to make it a little more kid friendly. They could also do 7:00.
Whatever weekday time they choose, they need to find a way to make it work with a kid’s channel like Nickelodeon or Disney. They need to find broadcasters like Noah Eagle and Nate Burleson who do a great job explaining the game to kids.
We’re all aware of what a success the game was yesterday. Now, it’s up to MLB to make it a success for them and to grow the game.
Mets fans are a truly blessed to be a great community. That includes regular fans like myself as well as people like Mets PA Announcer Colin Cosell.
Recorded a bunch of voiceovers today, including a couple of call-ups, and wow…I miss being behind the mic. Anybody else want a call-up for a quick, easy, and FREE Christmas gift? 😊 #CallMeUpColin
— Colin Cosell (@CosellPA) December 22, 2020
Cosell, for no reason other than he’s a great person, offered to prepare walk-up music and introductions for Mets fans for free. He stepped up and gave Mets fans a free Christmas gift they can cherish forever.
I reached out, and I requested one for each of my boys. They absolutely loved it. It wasn’t just them either. My entire family did as well, especially my father who probably got more of a kick out of it than anyone.
That’s what Cosell did. He gave a gift not just to my kids, but also my entire family. That is something truly special, and I cannot begin to thank him. Honestly, in addition to my private notes is to publicize how great a person he is for doing something like this.
So again, thank you for this truly wonderful gift. Words cannot express how wonderful it was.
If you give a Met a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of 2% milk,
When you give him the milk, he is getting ready to hit like Straw,
When the Met is done eating his cookie,
He’ll want another and another and another.
He will go outside to get an Insomnia Cookie.
When he is outside he will see the Home Run Apple,
Seeing the apple will make him want to crush baseballs.
The pitcher will have to pitch a ball,
The outfielders ready with their gloves.
To the pitcher, he’ll look strong like a Polar Bear with his bat.
The pitcher will throw a pitch,
He’ll hit a HOME RUN!
He’ll do a bat flip and dance like a Squirrel to celebrate.
When he starts to dance, the press will want to take his picture.
When he sees his smiling face, he’ll want to text the picture to all of his friends.
When talking, they’ll talk about how to play the game the Wright way.
They’ll talk about scouting reports, camaraderie, and giving the extra 2% on the field.
Talking about the extra 2% will remind them they’re thirsty.
So, they’ll get a glass of milk.
And chances are . . .
If they gets themselves a glass of milk, they’re going to want a cookie to go with it.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
I don’t know who needs to hear this but if you aren’t traveling with children don’t use the family bathrooms in airports. It makes you a bad person.
— Preston Wilson (@PrestonWilson44) August 19, 2019
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.
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.