Saturday, April 8, 2017

I Pushed My Son to Play Like His Brother and Pushed Them Both Too Hard

Photo courtesy of Little League Baseball®
Three years separate my sons. My oldest, Drew, graduated from the Little League® program last year. Our league doesn't have a division beyond Majors, so he's playing for a few other teams in the area. He's doing great there, just like he did during his Little League days. As a Little Leaguer®, he played up in Majors as a 9-year-old, made the All-Star team each year, and was the best player in the league his final year. Drew did not get his talents from any family gene. His success came from hard work.

My other son, Brayden, is ten. He's never shown the dedication of his older brother, but I knew he had the ability to be just as good. The problem is that he just hasn't shown the interest. Looking back, though, I guess the real problem is that since he's been six, I've pushed to get him to be the baseball player his brother is. I've done all the things with Brayden that I did with Drew... regular visits to the cages, private pitching lessons, baseball camps, sharing videos of drills. Nothing worked. Baseball never seemed important to him. But, I kept pushing.
One of my lightbulb moments came this summer when I asked Brayden to come outside to work on his swing. He said he was reading. "Don't you want to be a great baseball player like your brother?" Without taking his eyes off of the book, he just shrugged his shoulders. But, as always, I made him get off the couch, and grab his bat.
Just days after our Opening Ceremonies, I could tell he had checked out. He didn't get excited for practices, and never talked about baseball. Before one game, he claimed he had a stomach ache. I didn't buy it, so I pushed him to go. My wife and I argued about it, and he ended up skipping the game.
I decided then that if there was a conflict between Brayden's games and Drew's, I would go watch Drew. A few games went by, and while I was enjoying watching Drew win on the mound and hit third in the lineup, Brayden continued going through the motions.
His manager came up to me when I was waiting for him after practice, and said, "Brayden just doesn't want to be here." I told him I wasn't going to let him quit.
That night, the boys were talking in Drew's room. Behind the closed door, I heard things like... Dad pushes too much... All he cares about is how good I am... Baseball isn't as important to me as it is him. It was Drew talking, not Brayden!
Here I thought that success on the field does meant that a kid loves the game, but it became evident that Drew probably worked hard because of me, not because he wanted to. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to listen closer to my children and respect their wishes. While Brayden outwardly showed his lack of interest in the game most likely because of me pushing too much, Drew never told me directly that, while he was enjoying it, baseball wasn't all about wins on the mound or hits at the plate, he was just having fun with his friends. I either missed the signs or ignored them.
No doubt Brayden benefited a lot from the conversation with his older brother. He probably no longer felt alone because Drew shared some of his same feelings, and, most likely, realized that it was okay if he didn't follow in Drew's footsteps. It's something I should have told him a long time ago. I sure got the message... from both of them.