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Some of my fondest childhood memories come from competitive junior league sports. Well, except swim team, the one sport I was genuinely good at but hated intensely. But between soccer, basketball, baseball, and tennis, organized sports were so much fun. My favorite was actually baseball, especially since I grew up in the Atlanta suburbs during the Braves’ glory days in the 1990s. My dad used to take me to the nearby high school and give me batting practice, which only included one instance of a wild pitch accidentally hitting my nose.
There was the inside the park home run I hit because the other kids couldn’t field for crap. There were the post-game hot dogs. There was the boredom in right field waiting for a kid who was capable of hitting a ball my way. But it was all fun. Now that I’m getting older and my friends are having kids and I’m starting to think about having my own someday, I realize that I can’t wait to be the overly competitive little league dad.
My dad was often too busy to be an actual coach for the team. In most situations that wouldn’t be a problem, but as anyone who played organized sports as a little kid knows, most coaches have a kid or two on the team, as does the assistant coach and their neighbors or friends. Fathers who coach and are friends with the coach always get their kids to play the best positions with the most playing time. That’s why you always hear crazy stories about parents freaking out at coaches for not playing their kids enough.
Kids of the coaches or coaches’ friends always got to be pitchers and infielders, while the other kids good enough to play were put in the outfield. One time a coach decided to give me a chance to be a pitcher. One chance at only one practice. I was so excited, but got in trouble at school that week and was grounded from going to practice. I was never given the chance again. Had I had personal pull with the coach, maybe I’d have gotten another chance. The point is, there are big benefits to having a dad on or being friends with the little league coaching staff and childhood team sports are not always a meritocracy.
I will not allow my kid to be bypassed on opportunities to play better positions with more playing time. I don’t want to be the dad who has to berate or, even scarier, sic my wife on the coach for not giving my kid enough playing time. There are enough stories about drunk dads making scenes in front of nervous, impressionable kids and volunteer umpires. So instead, I’m going to be the overly competitive little league dad.
I have two options here. I can volunteer to be a coach with a reputable league and have my kid practice every single day after school even if we have to stay out past his bedtime. Kindergarten can wait, my kid’s going to be a star. My kid is getting reps at a high volume position like shortstop, second base, first base, or pitcher.
My second option is to be drinking buddies with the coaches. One of my talents is being a fun drunk 86% of the time. If you’re friends with the coaches you can get them to play your kid wherever they don’t want their own kid playing and you can drink beer in the stands during games and trash talk the other team while your wife glares at you. It’s honestly a decent option. I’m confident my kid will be serviceably athletic at the very least, so it won’t necessarily be favoritism or nepotism. I may even volunteer at practices and treat them like they’re training for the World Series. Losers practice to not lose, winners practice to win.
It is extremely important to my kid’s childhood experiences and athletic future and my personal entertainment that I become the overly competitive little league dad. If I’m willing to sweat and (drunkenly) bleed for my alma mater’s football team, I need to be willing to do the same for my kid. I can’t wait. .