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Official Article

Team Sports

Good sportsmanship, keeping your eye on the ball, walking it off, these are the lessons to be learned on the field participating in sports such as Tee-Ball, Soccer, Pee-Wee Football and more. For decades, kids across the country from ages 6 to 12 have spent their Saturdays playing in “Little Leagues” that gave them the chance to emulate their sports heroes and hone their skills for high school athletics. I’m sure you experienced the thrill of victory and the frustrating blow of defeat yourselves while competing alongside your classmates. What follows are my experiences taking part in this age old right of passage and I’ll be curious to hear if any of you felt the same way I did.

You see, I experienced team sports during my elementary school years in the same way I did high school dances in my teens. It was nice to show up for the pictures in the outfit, but I was totally lost when it came time to take part in the actual event. This really came from the fact that professional or even college sports for that matter had zero presence in my family. No NFL football game ever graced our TV screen and the NCAA Final Four was never the topic of discussion at the dinner table. The only time we ever got close to sports was when my Dad received complimentary tickets to Angels games from the City of Anaheim and even then it was viewed as more of a cultural event. Let me put it this way, during innings 1-9, I was way more concerned about what was on my hot dog than who won the game. So you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm when at age 6 my Mom came into my room to say she had signed me up to play tee-ball. As with most announcements at that age, I just said, “OK” and went back to playing with my Food Fighters. 

Maybe I should have been paying closer attention to my dear Mother, because next thing I knew I was being dropped off at a small baseball field and told I was going to be playing for the Blue Jays. I recognized my classmates Brent, Sam, Nathan, Chris and Erik, but didn’t understand what we were all gathered for outside of school. As an example of how little I cared, the group of kids above is actually my team, but I am not in that photo! Apparently I couldn't even be bothered to throw on a hat and jersey, but back to the field. Soon Erik and Chris’ dads were telling us to line up for batting practice. Lining up I could do, but after that I was completely lost. Hitting a ball had something to do with it, I knew that from watching Wally Joyner in-between bites of Ballpark franks, but there was no pitcher to be found.

After a minute of looking around I was told that the ball balanced on a plastic pole was my target, so I walked over and started swatting wildly at it. After 2 or 3 swings I connected and the ball bounced into left field, “Great job, now run!” one of the coaches said, “Where?” I shouted back. “To 1st base!” I started looking around for my destination, but there was only slightly dead grass as far I could see. I’m sure the rest of the team was face-palming all over the place, but finally one of the coaches walked me to first base and explained that, “When the next kid hits the ball, you run over there.” To a kid who had any concept of the game it might have been insulting, but to a complete novice like myself I actually appreciated the help. I can’t say it helped me care any more about improving my RBI, but that’s probably because I was about to learn about the best part of team sports, SNACKS!

If you’re familiar with the comedy stylings of Brian Reagan, then you have probably heard his bit about playing little league and counting down the minutes to the free sno-cone promised after the game. I would say my memories are the same except for one difference, I don’t even remember playing the game! All of my tee-ball memories after that first practice consist of what juice box and treat the assigned parent brought that week. Capri Sun, Hi-C and Nutter Butters were tops in my mind. These were exotic delicacies I just didn’t get to enjoy at home, as is evidenced by the fact that my Mom was always the one to bring orange slices. Even better was the pizza party at the end of the season. I remember sitting on the patio of a local pizza parlor one sunny Saturday afternoon, scarfing pepperoni and sipping root beer while debating which was better, Battletoads or Double Dragon. And that was the end of my sports days, or so I thought.

Not long after Tee-Ball season ended, my Mom revealed that she had agreed to be an assistant coach for an AYSO soccer team which guaranteed me a spot, oh joy. Once again talks of positions like Forward and Half-Back went over my head, while I dreamed of Fruit Roll-Ups or E.L. Fudge Cookies. The only time I got excited was when my Mom said we got to choose our own team name to which I quickly offered up The Silver Streaks! I'm pretty sure I had Silverhawks on the brain when I came up with that and to my surprise it was quickly selected to adorn an awesome team banner my Mom made which had each of our names written on silver lightning bolts. Looking at the team picture above, I was obviously busy pitching names for next years team, "Hey, how about the Lion-O's or the Teen Wolves?"

Like I said before, when the coach sent me in to play Left Fullback I only understood what half of that statement meant. There was really only one position I recognized and therefore wanted to play, Goalie. Hey, the Goalie got special gloves, a different colored jersey and had only one job, stop the ball. Unfortunately, the coach's son had the inside track on that coveted position and if I'm being completely honest, actual skill. So I pretty much just ran up and down the field until the ref blew his whistle. The only consolation I took was that I got to wear "armor" on the field, by which I mean Shin Guards. I was always thrilled about strapping up that velcro behind my calf and being invincible below the knee for 30 minutes. Oh yeah, having your own water bottle was a pretty cool thing too. Is it just me or were plastic water bottles the #1 promotional item of the late 80's? It seemed like we always had 7 to 10 different water bottles with various company logos on them in our cupboards at all times.

After that single season of soccer, I was officially done with sports. My Mom then tried to sign me up for piano lessons, but after the 2nd week I just hid my music book under a couch cushion and told her I lost it. I'm pretty sure she knew I was lying, but was tired of forcing me to do things I had no interest in. Pretty soon I was back to the land of VHS and broadcast television I loved so dearly, but don't think I was idly passing the time. No, I was studying the performances, doing drills on accents, line memorization and blocking. See it wasn't that I was adverse to working on a skill, it just had to be an entertaining one. Eventually my Mom got me auditions for community plays which came as natural to me as some kids shot free-throws. But that's a story for another day.

So tell me, were you the superstar on your pee-wee team? What was your moment of glory? Anybody out there as apathetic as I was about scoring points?


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Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:45 PM

I too was forced into T-Ball. I remember very little about it though. My only real memories are of the field and our uniforms, and of a teammate having his hand get swollen and blue from being hit with a pitch.

That pretty much made me want out. That you could get injured. I wanted no part of an injury. LOL

Now, my Cub Scouts days... I remember more about that. T-Ball though... it's all lost in a thick fog.

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