Watching him play baseball, I could see the kid was, on the one hand, having fun, on the other, not trying his hardest. Not putting his best foot forward, many would say. I watched as he walked up to bat, made contact with the ball, ran to first, then second, and stopped there, waiting for the next player to help move him to the next base. The kid was bent over, hands on thighs, ready to make a run for third base. His teammate smacked the ball just as the kid was halfway to third, running, not too quickly, straight towards the base. And, yet, also, at the same time, the third baseman was placing his glove on the ground, retrieving the just-hit ball. The kid stopped running, turned, looked back at second, then back at third, and decided to defy his odds. He ran to third, towards the opposing player holding an outstretched ball-holding glove. Not surprisingly, the kid's strategy didn't work. He was tagged out. His coach yelled, What were you thinking?! Why did you run?! You should have gone back to second! That was it no more. The kid bowed his head, walked into the dugout, and sat. An angry look crossed over his face, for maybe five minutes, and then it was gone. He'd do better, maybe, next time.
As I watched this kid, and his reaction at being coached, loudly, I reflected about when, a year ago, the kid would not so easily have tolerated the coach's screams. Rather, he would react in some tantrum-type of way, to show he wasn't taking shit from anyone. Last year, I was on the sidelines, at various soccer games, watching this kid having fun, yet not always trying his hardest. I would watch him grab the ball with his feet, kick hard, and send it somewhere down the field. And then he'd stop. As far as he was concerned he did his part, he didn't need to keep running, to kick again, and try to make a goal. No, he left that up to his teammates. His coach would yell to him, Keep moving! Don't stop! and the kid would simply throw his hands into the air, as if saying Why? I did my thing. And when the quarter ended, that kid would hear the coach sort-of shout to him, telling him he could try harder, that he didn't need to give up so easily. Yet, instead of reflecting, understanding, that kid would throw the ball down, and stomp off. Then the coach, loosening his firm hand, would try to reason with the kid. The kid would sort-of listen, but not rid himself of his sour mood. Not until he was ready to act his age.
I asked that kid why, when his baseball coach yells at him, he accepts it, yet, when his soccer coach yells, he doesn't like it.
"Because, my baseball coach doesn't let me get away with it. He wouldn't allow me to talk back, the way my soccer coach would."