Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Sports Moments- Thoughts on Coaching and Parenting

One of the things I learned from coaching and parenting is that children choose their own sports to excel in. I exposed both of my children and my grand daughter Avery to many sports. But THEY were the ones who figured out what sports they would most make their mark in. Here are three moments when I realized each had found their sport
Sara and Tennis.
I taught Sara how to throw catch and hit from the time she was three years old and she was a star in boys baseball and basketball from an early age. She showed little interest in tennis until she started taking group lessons with the best boy athletes in the neighborhood and started beating boys who were actually better baseball players than she was. Then, the indoor tennis facility where she took lessons was abandoned by owner and was basically run by the pros who taught there, especially Steve Carberry and Joanne Bongiorno Sheeler. They worked out an arrangement where kids who took lessons with them could play for free on off hours. During that winter, Sara, who was 8 was "adopted" by the best older kids at the bubble, including R.j. Sheeler, Andrew Magidoff and the Adan family, who were taking lessons there and encouraged to hit with them when they were on the court. And then her game started taking off. I discovered how much when the pros ran a tournament and in first round of the girls tournament, Sara played a 16 year doubles player on the Midwood Tennis Team. Sara beat her and the girl ran off the court crying, something that would turn out to be a typical pattern among girls who played her. That's when I knew that tennis was likely to be her best sport.
Eric and Baseball
My son Eric, like Sara, was exposed to many sports, baseball basketball and soccer. He was good in all of them but when he was 5 or 6, in seemed like he was going to most make his mark as a left handed hitter in baseball. Then, when we was 7, I had him play "up" in an 8 and 9 year old league where the kids did the pitching. Eric was one of four or five pitchers on the team all of whom were pretty good, but I still thought of him more as a hitter. Then one day, we played a team made up of some of the best 9 year olds in the neighborhood. Eric was the third pitcher to take the mound and I didn't expect too much. But something happened to him out there. Faced with kids who were two years older and much bigger, Eric became a different person. He struck out hitter after hitter with left handed pitches that moved all over the place. The kids he faced looked helpless against him. And then I knew, along with every parent and coach watching the game. It was as a pitcher that Eric was going to have his greatest success.
Avery and Track
When Avery was three or four years old, I tried to teach her to hit and throw and catch the way I did Sara and Eric. She was not particularly enthusiastic about this and didn't make much progress. However, she kept wanting to race me. By 4 or 5, she was just as fast as me and by 6 or 7 she was just as fast as her very athletic mother. Finally, through a friend of Sara's we found a track club in Brooklyn, Prospect Park Youth Running Club, who tried her out and decided to make her a middle distance runner. I went to a few of the practices and thought she was good, not great in comparison to the other kids her age. Then Liz and I went to her first meet, an 8 and under 800 meter race at the Prospect Park Armory. When the race began, Liz and I said to each other "Please don't let her come in last." At the beginning of the race, which was 4 laps, Avery, who was a terrible starter, was at the back of the pack. Then to our great relief, by the beginning of the third lap, she was in the middle of the pack. By the end of the third lap, Avery was in second, about 20 yards behind one of her friends who was an excellent runner. Then to everyone's astonishment, Avery found a gear no one knew she had, passed her friend and won the race by 50 yards. That's when we knew. Avery had found her sport