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First-year players look up to coaches

March 29, 2012
By Jon Buzby

I never would have thought a high-five could mean so much to a child, but then I read a friend's Facebook entry saying that her son looks forward to getting rewarded by a high-five from his tee ball coach "more than anything else at this point in his life."

And that one comment got me thinking about the role that coaches play in the lives of children all over the country at this time of year when many kids are playing youth sports for the first time ever.

This particular child is playing tee ball, and after two practices is having the time of his life. Even his mom, who was reluctant to let her 4-year-old son loose under the supervision of another adult for the first time - he's not old enough to attend school - now admits that playing this season has matured him in ways that she never could have at home.

"I've already noticed that it's building his independence," the child's mom said. "I see him listening to the coaches and watching attentively at everything that's happening on the field."

And yet as much as he's grown up in a few short weeks, mom claims she still sees signs of her little boy: "It's pretty cool because he knows that playing baseball makes him a big boy, yet every time he catches or throws a ball, my little munchkin looks over at me for my approval and a 'good job, honey.' "

Sometimes as parents we forget that playing a sport for the first time is no different than that first day of kindergarten, and it can be tough cutting that cord for child and parent. And in this day and age, children often play organized sports before going off to school, so it literally is the first time in their young lives when they are supervised and instructed by someone other than mom or dad.

If your child is playing a sport for the first time and feels nervous or seems to be having trouble adjusting to his or her new coach or teammates, remember, it's a whole new experience, just like that first day of school.

As much as we don't want our kids to grow up too fast, sometimes we expect them to do just that. We think that just because it's a sport, there shouldn't be a fear factor. When in fact, there most likely will be.

Often during that first season of tee ball, catching and throwing are the easy parts. It's listening and following directions from someone other than mom or dad that takes the most getting used to.

After your child's coach gives him a high-five for a great practice, don't forget to give your son or daughter one too. Tell him it's a "congratulations" for taking the first step on the path to independence.

Even if he is still your "little munchkin."

Reach syndicated columnist Jon Buzby at and follow him on Twitter @jonbuzby.



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