T-ball: Quit or Finish It Out?

Updated on March 28, 2010
C.C. asks from Oak Island, MN
25 answers

We signed our 4 year old son up for t-ball this year. We asked him ahead of time if he wanted to play and he said "Yes!"

He seems to get bored when he is not part of the action. After standing in the outfield for a while with nothing going on he will just leave the field and come and sit on the bleachers. I have tried to make him understand that he has to play the outfield too but it seems that we have a designated hitter our my hands. At his last game he would not cooperate at all, when I went out to stand with him in the field he did the "wet noodle" and just laid in the grass.

My husband and I are at odds as to how to handle. Should we pull him out and try again another time or make him finish it out? I do not want to force him to do something he does not want to do but I also want him to know that he should finish what he starts. However, is he too young for that type of lesson?


He is engaging so it isn't like he isn't participating at all. I think that is part of my dilemma, he does seem to enjoy it. I have read some really good responses and I will take them all into account.

One person mentioned that I shouldn't be out there, and maybe they are right but there are actually several parents that are out there to help guide the kids. Our coach doesn't have an assistant so everyone just pitches in.

The coach is a super nice guy but not very authorative. He doesn't really address my son leaving the field. He tries to make sure everyone gets to participate but when I talked to him about my son he did not seem to be concerned. He is very laid back and he basically said "he's just being a kid". Which is true...

I think we will try practicing more at home and see if that helps...

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So What Happened?

Most of the frustration has been between my husband and I. It bothers my husband more as far as what others think. I tend to be more of a "kids will be kids type". I was just concerned about feeling like I was "forcing" him to do something he really did not want to do. My husband is more of the sports oriented one in the family and he has a hard time thinking on a 4 year old level (even though he can act like one himslef at times). ;o)

Anyhow, things have gotten much better and much more entertaining. My son is having fun (most of the time), he gets a little discouraged because he wants to catch the ball every time, just like all of them do. I love watching the whole team chase the ball regardless of where it is going! He even thanked me last night for letting him play t-ball. Thanks to everyone for all of the advice. I am taking lots of pictures!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Yep--that pretty much describes most kids in their first year of tball, I remember when my son (and his team) was 4, they'd be in the outfield swatting bugs, sitting in the grass, digging in the dirt behind the backstop--LOL I think it's adorable. They're too young to be expected to pay total attention to the whole game at that age and he's doing good if he's running to first base after a hit and retrieving the ball if he's in the field. If he likes it, let him keep going. I'd let the manager and the coach deal with him while he's playing. Just sit on the bleachers and watch.
My son is now 7 and is chomping for his first baseball practice tomorrow night. You'll be amazed at the difference between this year and next year!

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answers from St. Cloud on

He is only 4 and he isn't going to have any earth shattering epiphanies about not being a quitter. Go ahead and let him quit. I don't blame him, T-ball is exceedingly boring!

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answers from Boise on

I would say finish. How much longer does he have? My sister would get into something, my parents would buy all the gear, and then she would quit. It was a bad lesson and a bad habit to get into.

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answers from Dallas on

Hi C.,
Well I would make him finish it out. If it's just a matter of being bored that's not a good reason to pull him out. Yes he's young and it's hard to make them do something they just don't want to do when you wanted him to have fun doing it to begin with but sometimes we all have to just play a "field" position. It's a team game. It's just part of the game. I suggest having the coach tell him that he shouldn't walk off the field. And I don't think you should be out there either. If all he does is lay down then let him finish laying down. I think that if he's old enough to manipulate with this behavior then he's old enough to learn the lesson. And I wouldn't give it much attention or time talking about it to him, pretty sure that's would only add to the problem. Plan on feeling uncomfortable about it ahead of time and just move through one of the many times watching your baby struggle for a life lesson.
Best Regards,

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answers from Fort Walton Beach on

Its a life lesson...Make him finish it out...OMGosh..the year my daughter wanted to play t-ball ..YIKES was worse on me than it was on her...I was asst coach..but the only one that was there every game. Not one of the kids wanted to be there..the parents were awful..(why isn't my kid pitching this game?...your kid stood there last game...yada yada) pitching my patootie...wet noodles and two parents running around the outfield..LMAO! My daughter standing on the pitchers mound spitting every 3 sec because thats what pitchers do...WOW! Finish it out...its going to be painful..but its going to be one of those memories that you will never forget. GET LOTS OF PICTURES!

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answers from Jacksonville on

Make him finish. You wouldn't want to send the message to him that is' OK to quit when he gets bored with something.
My husband is a soccer coach at the YMCA and every year the same kids start and quit when they're "bored" with it. It's a pretty big hassle for the parents of the other children as well...and the kids know they can do it every year.

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answers from Chicago on

That kind of behavior is typical of a 4-year old. He probably only has a few minutes of attention span so standing out there in the field must be pretty boring! I teach gymnastics to 4-year olds and they can't stand in line for 4 seconds! I think I'd be bored standing out in the outfield. I don't blame him for being bored at all.

I think this is not the right place for him to learn the "finish what you started" lesson. Right now all he'll learn is to hate T-ball. I'd remove him from the team and try again when he's older.

The "finish what you started" lesson at his age is better taught when it comes to short projects like coloring a picture, etc. He'll never grasp the big concept of finishing out a season. Maybe a game, but not the entire season.

Good luck!

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answers from Columbus on

This is exactly the debate in our house over the years. These are my thoughts.....I get the lesson about sticking with something and not quitting. You can't just quit things that you don't like or get too tough. However, when they are that little, I don't think they have the capacity to understand the concept. Plus, if you make him stay with it and he ends up LOATHING baseball, he'll never want to try it again. He may also not want to try anything new for fear he'll be stuck with it for months. Plus, if he's standing in the outfield, not paying attention, he might get hurt. Granted, I'm not sure there's anyone on the team who could actually hit the ball to the outfield, but he could get hit by another player running after the ball. Baseball/t-ball requires kids with more of an attention span. My oldest is a sports nut, so he was always engaged. My 9 year old, definitely does not have the sports gene, so baseball (which requires a lot of down time) is not his sport. I'm ok with kids of this age playing sports if it's all for fun and learning the absolute basics. However, if the kid is really not interested and wants to sit on the bench, I say let him. 4 is really young. Now, if he is playing a sport at age 6 or 7 and doesn't want to finish, I'd make him finish. At that age, they have a much better understanding of what it means to finish what you start and not letting the team down, etc. Good luck!

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answers from Gainesville on

LOL, sounds exactly like my son's first season of T-ball. I say, make him finish it out. The season is likely pretty short, no? Ours was 8 weeks at that age and the games were only about 30-40 minutes long, and YES, most of the parents were out on the field helping out. My husband was the coach, and it was a HUGE help (and pretty much expected) to have other parents get involved. The coach really can't do much about your son leaving the field. At this age, it is really not a big deal, as they are just getting introduced to the whole organized sports thing. If he really doesn't like it, try soccer next year.

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answers from Dallas on

This is pretty typical of 1st season T-ball and 4 year olds. We have gone through it twice now. And the outfield is pretty boring at this stage :) Our rule is once you start the season you have to finish it. But if you don't want to play next time, you don't have to. I would make him finish the season. Keep reinforcing not leaving the field and paying attention. In our league we have a coach in the outfield that helps keep the players on track. And your coach should be moving the players around so everyone is getting infield and outfield playing time. If not, ask him to. PM me if you have any more questions.

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answers from Atlanta on

I do not feel your son is too young to start appreciating the lessons of life.
Finishing what one starts is a vital lesson for any human regardless of age. I encourage you to help him to fulfill his committment to the team. Share examples of times you and your husband felt like quitting, but decided that you had a responsibility to fulfill. Evoke his thoughts of what he thinks his responsibility is to the team. Ask what would happen to the important job of fielding if his skills were no longer present? Help him to feel his value to the team. If he doesn't buy in to your words, invoke the help of the coach. It takes a village after all!

I am a big fan of teaching children emotional intelligence skills and certainly see an opportunity for this here. Ask your son what he is thinking and feeling when he is in the outfield. Help him to process any negative emotions if they are present. Devise an action plan to help him. Of course since he is only four, the action steps must be very simple. If it is simply a question of boredom, then help him to understand that this feeling is normal yet temporary. Though only four, your son is a thinking being. He has an opinion and asking him how he would like to manage this situation might be helpful. Helping kids to become part of a solution is a lifelong skill that will always come in handy.

Remember to praise any maturity and responsbility that he demonstartes. You may even consider letting him choose a reasonable reward for fullfilling his committment.

Best wishes.


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answers from Indianapolis on

He needs to finish. As hard as that may be, he needs to learn now that when you say something, you take responsibility for it, like it or not. I would take pictures of him laying in the grass, and not being very cooperative. Explain to him that you have to do things you don't like too, even tho you didn't say yes to them. He'll be fine and you won't put a burden on the coaches to find someone else at this late date. Plus you spent money on this and he has to begin to understand that as well. If he wants to play again, then you need to tell him that if he starts, he finishes. He'll figure it out, he's young, but the time to teach them is before they turn 5. After 5, I'm told they are who they are going to be.
Good Luck and hang in there, but not in the outfield.

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answers from Cleveland on

Don't be too discouraged, he's pretty young! But I would say have him stick it out for many reasons. 1) teach him that you don't let your team down 2) finish what you start 3) quitting isn't an option 4) he'll think twice before asking or agreeing to be in sport
Again he is just a little guy and I've watched t-ball through baseball for many years and he's being VERY typical! Make him participate as much as you can without it becoming a nightmare for all of you. This is very much a learning experience for him and you and your husband. My son HATED baseball the first year, but I wouldn't let him quit. The next year he asked again and I told him, if you sign up you WILL stick it out. He was 7. Now he's almost 16, has played every year and loves it. He's now starting firstbaseman, and this year starting pitcher! You just never know unless you make them try! Good luck and try to just have fun with the whole thing

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answers from Tampa on

Hey! He's 4!
Did you ask him again- does he still want to do this?
The coach is correct - he's a kid- if the coach isn't nutty over this why make it a problem? Why would you want an authorative coach for a 4 year old?
Please enjoy your son now, laugh with it, love it, and don't be embarrassed by it(is that the problem?)I promise you the teen age years will be here before you know it and you will remember the wet noodle fondly.
Have you seen that wonderful , I think Publix ad? With the little boy playing soccer? The dad thought he was awful- and the kid thought he himself was wonderful!!!!! Maybe he is having a good time- let him.
Best, k



answers from Miami on

Keep him in until the end of the season at least. Then, have him really consider what he likes or doesn't before he decides whether to play next season. I started taking piano lessons as a child and spent the first few months wanting to quit. My mom insisted I finish the year, then I could quit if I still wanted to. I ended up choosing to play for 10 years. My son tried karate and wanted to quit. (he was 4) We made him finish the year. He chose to stay in for 2 more years. Towards the middle of the third year, he had lost interest and wanted to quit. We made him finish the year, then let him quit. Each year my children learn a language. Several years it was French, but this year my boys chose Spanish. They want to go back to French but I'm making them finish the year. If they quit they will learn no Spanish at all, and since they chose it, they should at least learn some. I just think it's an important lesson to learn that you should always finish what you start. It makes you a much more reliable person as an adult, especially in the workplace. And it really may help if you aren't there. Then he doesn't have you to lean on when he wants to quit.



answers from Detroit on

I had the same issue with my 5 year old and swim lessons. He loved swimming when he first started and was very excited about going. He really connected with the instructor which was a male. Then, when we signed up for a new session of classes he had a different instructor and he did not connect with her at all. Then he told me he hated swimming and did not want to go. He would not cooperate with this new instructor because he did not want to be there.
I decided not to send him anymore because it was becomming a problem. I figured if he did not want swim he was not going to learn.

I'm not sure if I made the right decision or not. For example, some kids hate school but that does not mean they can drop out. I just decided that I
would pick and choose my battles more carefully. But on the other hand, we signed up for swim class because it was suppose to be a recreation that my son could enjoy and my thought was that if he was not enjoying himself why should he go.
Hopefully, you and your husband can reach an agreement on this issue. sometimes it might just take some time of trying different things before you guys will know what your son really enjoys.



answers from Tampa on

I used to pick flowers and do cart wheels in the outfield when I played baseball then girls softball. My parents made me stick it out and I played from 5 till I was 18 in high school. Make him stick it out but if he doesn't want to play next year then you will know. Maybe when he gets older he might want to try again. Good luck!



answers from Sarasota on

Keep Him In!! My Four year old did TBall when he was 3 and half the kids were passed out sleeping on the grass..others were crying..my ex husband would bribe my son with fruit snacks! It was very frustrating but they learn to be a bit more disciplined.. My son finished Baskeball at YMCA And started off a bit more disciplined than Tball but still was not the best.. by the end of the 'season' all of the players were doing awesome! Now we are in soccer.. I think by keeping them on -- giving them a bit more discipline, they will get used to it and start being productive ;-) !!
BTW: we did Cal Ripken and i was SOOO not impressed so if I do decide on Baseball again, I will probably not go there!!


answers from Washington DC on

i think he's too little to make decisions and stick to them. when he's old enough to come to you begging to do an activity and then wants out, then i think that response would be appropriate. but most little fellows will respond with YES to an activity presented that sounds like fun but they're clueless about. i'd say let him bug out for now, bring him to some games to watch over the summer, and wait until he asks to be allowed to play before reintroducing it.



answers from Tampa on

Depending on how much longer you have, I'd finish it out. Children learn those lessons from very early on and you say he is engaged so that's good. Has he seen other kid's games. Perhaps watching others can help him understand what an "important job" he has on the field. Practice at home and maybe have a rewards program with him. Everytime he stays on the outfield for however long he gets stickers or a special treat and increase the time as days go by. Explain and remind him about the rewards before reaching the field and before practice even starts. Make him a secret assistant coach in the outfield.....sometimes that works too. Have fun!



answers from Tampa on

Been here and done this!!! Still doing it!!! :-) Keep him in. Don't pull him. Just talk about t-ball very excitedly (sp) to let him know how excited you are about it. Play with him at home when you can and make it fun. He will learn from the entire experience and then next year, if he decides he doesn't want to do it, then don't.

Trust me on this!



answers from Miami on

I'm a total believer that you need to teach your kid to finish what he starts. Even at this age. Explain he needs to finish the season. He signed up for an obligation. But that after the season he does not need to play again. But he might want to. Remember though he is 4 do not expect him to stay attentive on base while nothing is going on. My daughter use to sit on the bags and start playing in the red clay. Its good for him to try different team activities it helps them to learn to work as a team. The coach is right do not expect to much out of him yet he is 4. Yes you can help out in the field if you want but sometimes sitting back and letting him go his own way with the kids is good too.



answers from Miami on

T-ball is an extremely slow sport for 4-6 yr olds! Try soccer instead.



answers from Tallahassee on

OK, this is all too funny & is exactly what my husband & I are going through right now. We went through it 6 years ago with our son and now with our daughter. Our son would sit indian-style in the field (in or out), watch the ball roll right past, attempt to sit on his grand-parents lap when his team was up-to-bat, etc. As hard as it was for us, we did not interfere, unless he was trying to hang out with us and not with his team when "up to bat". NOW, we are experiencing the exact same behaviors with our daughter. He stuck it out, WE stuck it out & we all made it through the season. The next year, we asked him if he wanted to play again, and he was QUICK to tell us "NO", so we didn't register him again. We are attempting the same technique with our daughter. I hear in your voice that the frustration is more with you than with your son. If so, try your best to "hang-in-there". The coach's will not be very authoritative and t-ball is mostly for fun at this level. As much of the advise here tells you to make him "stick-it-out", I am advising YOU to stick-it-out! Believe me, you will laugh about this in a few years. Good luck to you & good luck to me! :)



answers from Tulsa on

That is the fun of T-Ball, it's for kids that are just above being a toddler and they are learning so many things even if they aren't exhibiting skills. We play both Spring and Fall. Our kids must be 4 years old to start then when they turn 6 the next season they move up to the next level. My granddaughter was the flower picker for her team the first season, then the next season she figured out how to turn cartwheels, the next she learned how to hit the ball with no tee about half the time, this past seasong she actually paid attention to what the hitter was doing and figured stuff out. We are very pleased with the stuff she learned. It's for fun and teaching minor stuff. Be out on the field with your child and let him do what he wants. If you are constantly getting on to him for not paying attention he's not enjoying it. it will be negative for him. Ignore everyone else, you help him have fun.

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