We have a boy on our team with ADHD. He is clearly strugglling to control himself. He has clear anger issues. He chides players on his team. He sometimes gets frustrated by called strikes by doing fun things like yelling "FUCK!"
Our boys are very good at accepting him for who he is, trying to help calm him down and keep him within the lines and boundaries of what is acceptable, and most importantly shaking it off when he says something hurtful. Our coaches, including the head coach (his dad), are more than patient and doing everythign they can to help him learn and stay in control. He clearly has a loving father. The mother is absent (I don't know the circumstances, I'm not close enough to the family for that to be any of my business) and the extended family is always there to support him, too.
All of this is background to explain why Little League is a nightmare. I have a "friend" who has a kid on one of the other teams we have played. We played them for the first time last weekend. Our boys won 16-13 because both teams were really bad in the field, but our boys made a few extra outs in the form of actual good plays. But while the two teams were playing, our difficult boy was called for looking at strike two. He yelled, "FUCK", the other team's parents audibly gasped in horror (we are all used to it by now) and Coach, the kid's dad called him out on strike two for being out of bounds with his language. He went to the bench, tried to grumble complaints, dad would hear none of it and with 2 outs we moved on to the next batter. So I ran in to my "friend" in the parking lot yesterday when our boys teams were about to play again and while I tried to exchange pleasantries and wish her little guy good luck in the game, she actually had the nerve to tell me how upset she is that we have such a "mouthy boy" on our team. "We complained to the league. I couldn't believe he wasn't forced to leave the field entirely when this happened. And the Commissioner of the league was there. He tried to talk to him and he plugged his ears and said 'la la la'. That kid is terrible!" - spoken not at all like the school teacher, Christian woman, she is.
"Well, the head coach is his dad and he was called out for that. And I have to say I know he is tough to deal with, believe me I know, but he has serious issues that make it very hard for him." - my attempt to try to convince her to not be so judgy - no such luck.
So great, she and her husband (one of the other team's coaches) clearly has it out for this poor kid because he is an evil seed who defiled their kid's fair ears with the f word. I had to leave a few minutes before the game ended. My daughter had a place to be. But while I was there, our boys were really outplaying this team and sadly we don't have an umpire at this stage in the leagues play (I don't know why not seems like a no brainer that we shoudl have one). Because of this you have to rely on the fairness of good coaches to make fair calls. Our coach M is as fair as they come (he's not our head coach) but he clearly knows the rules inside and out and he will always error on the side of trying to make our boys and his girl real baseball players. You better swing that bat if it is close to a strike because he will call you out looking every time, even if the ball drops on the plate. When you hit the ball you better run hard because while the tie goes to the runner, if he sees a tie and you weren't running as hard as you could he'll call you out anyway to teach you to run hard every time. If the other team makes a fantastic play and we are beating them by a ton, he's going to call our kid who beats the play by two steps out just to give the other team's players the satisfaction of knowing that their good play will be rewarded with an "out". These kids are little 2-4th graders. It's about learning to play, learning the rules, and progressing in your play and sportsmanship. It is NOT about winning.
Funny thing is, when you teach your kids all of these things and coach them like The Husband, Coach B and Coach M do, a funny thing happens - the kids truly do progress quickly and win games.
Yesterday, our kids who are learning how to play had to learn a very sad lesson - some teams are learning just one lesson WIN! This other team is very poorly coached. They are not called for watching strikes. In this league, the kids cannot walk. When the kids pitch, after four balls the coach takes over to pitch. If the kid watches a strike (no matter who is pitching) it is a strike. If a kid watches a ball, no penalty. But with this team, if a kid watches a perfect strike the other coach calls it a ball. I counted 8 strikes pitched to ONE batter, as he just watched them go by and a total of more than 16 pitches before he finally got a hit. The only way their kids get out is by swinging and missing or when the fielders make a play. Still, our boys and girl are fantasticly coached and they worked hard on fielding in practice this week and they were beating them anyway. While our kids struck out or got real hits and triples, their boys were essentially playing T-ball! It was horrible to watch. Then they came up down by two in the bottom of the last inning. Our kids got 2 outs that couldn't be disputed. Then a perfect fielding play was begun for out 3, the boy who fielded it turned to tag the runner, so the runner starts running outside of the baseline to avoid being tagged. Any ump in America would call him out, our coach DID call him out. The opposing coach argued he was safe. Then the league commissioner and friend of the other team yells from in the bleachers behind home plate and nowhere near in plain view of the play, "He's SAFE!"
Good on you - you got the kid you hate back, and hurt the feelings of very confused kids who played hard.
Our coaches chewed some serious little league ears off at the end of the game. While they don't care about the outcome of this game, (truly winning or losing doesn't matter at this age - not to sane adults) they just felt bad for our kids being unfairly treated, and they realize this means clearly one team has coaches who cannot be trusted to serve as their own team's umpires. Coach B was issued a clear written apology for the commissioner's inappropriate call to decide the game from an unclear vantage point. But seriously, why don't we have umps? We have refs in basketball - in a league where the kids still aren't allowed to know or keep score!