My son played coach pitch baseball this summer. Each player gets 8 or so pitches from the coach instead of the regular 3 strikes/4 balls rule. All the coaches have played by this rule up until our last game when the opponent’s coach kept pitching and pitching until his team would hit the ball. Sometimes it was like 16 pitches /strikes per kid. Our little “Blue Tornadoes” spent a lot of time on the field waiting for a ball to come their way.
At the end of the game I heard our coach complain to his wife about how many pitches the other team was getting. And then he said something offhand:
“Some times kids gotta learn to strike out.”
I had never thought in those terms before, but I couldn’t agree more. When we allow kids to strike out, we send the message to them that missing the ball is not that big of a deal. The more we try to get them to hit the ball or the more pitches they get to avoid the strike out– the more pressure the kids feel and the more serious it seems if they miss.
Kids gotta learn to strike out in life too. So when they don’t get invited to the party; they don’t make the team; they forget their homework; they fight with a friend, or they spend all their money, mom doesn’t throw them more pitches. She doesn’t rush in and save the day or smooth everything over or make a phone call. She sits back and encourages and cheers and hugs and supports and says “That’s okay. Maybe next time.”
Like when Elle got an 89.82 in Math for her 4th quarter grade last year and this percentage was scored a B, I didn’t run in to the teacher asking her to round it up to an A. She metaphorically missed the pitch and it’s okay. It is what it is. And it is not that big of a deal.
I might sound like a hard nose to some of you and I may be. Maybe your philosophy is that kids are little and we should cushion them from reality or we should give them as many chances as we can to succeed or we need to build their self-esteem.
But I think childhood is the best time to learn to strikeout- to make a mistake- or to even fail. It is best to strike out when the stakes are low. When you really don’t have that much to lose. Kids can learn coping skills, resilience, perspective and self worth from “missing the ball”. And they can learn these skills before life gets more serious and the consequences get more severe.
So swing away little ones, swing away. You may hit the ball; you may not. Either way, it’s okay.