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29

Jul, 2021

Learning to Parent, Learning to Be Human at FBA

I have been an FBA parent since the days of George Robinson. I respected his message that I should cheer on every kid, should offer encouragement rather than criticism, and never yell at an umpire. 

But I can't say that I always followed that advice, especially when it came to my own kid or the one team that I coached. 

It was only after the passing of many years that I came to believe, deeply and sincerely, how the FBA way is not only the right way to approach children's sports but also the most effective. I suppose some kids respond, temporarily, to being yelled at, but I think many of us, myself included, are too quick to assume that kids need to be yelled at. That attitude goes way back, at least as far as the Puritans. This philosophy of parenting posits the children all have the devil in them and that only discipline can save them from their own laziness, ineptitude, lack of grit or concentration. 

I don't believe that, and I try not to act that way anymore. There is likely little we can do to make kids want to play hard. Their coaches can teach them how to play, but only they can decide whether they want to play. The challenge of being a parent is coming to accept the limitations on our own power. My main job is to offer unconditional love, not condemnation or judgment or even post-mortem analysis. What kids do on the baseball diamond or on the basketball court on any given day is an opportunity for them to learn about themselves, even from a young age. 

What I do as a parent off the field or in the stands must be different. I have come to see each season, each game as a chance to practice the principles of the beloved community that I cherish. In the context of youth sports, this means giving children--regardless of their dis/ability, race, religion, gender identity, or class--the chance to succeed or fail while they know in their hearts that we as a community will support and love them. These are the values worth speaking up for, even fighting for. 

Rather than making a big deal of a missed call by a teenage referee or umpire, challenging myself to imagine how I can make good trouble is the higher calling. How can I peacefully advocate for an ethic of generosity, especially toward those kids and families who are marginalized in some way? I am not saying I always practice this high-mindedness. And when my 13-year-old strikes another kid out on an off speed pitch, I feel a rush that is as powerful as the most fanatic baseball parent. 

But I have come to see FBA as a place where I can practice being human. I sometime succeed, sometime fail. I love to try, and I love it that I can see other people trying, too. We succeed or fail together. And that's what genuine community is all about.    

- Dr. Edward Curtis

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