The Sports Question

Updated on May 26, 2014
R.P. asks from Denver, CO
18 answers

When my son was very young he was somewhat uncoordinated. He tried t-ball and soccer, but did not enjoy himself. By about second grade he started to become more interested in sports and his abilities greatly improved. A year ago, in fourth grade, he wanted to play fall baseball. He loved it, and he was one of the best hitters, pitchers, and fielders on the team. He played again in the spring. He still had fun, but had an almost all season batting slump, and was no longer a starting pitcher. He had reached a plateau, while other kids seemed to be getting bigger and stronger. He pitches accurately, but lacks a great deal of upper body strength. He is now playing this spring. He is so focused and attentive to the coach. He fields the ball beautifully. He can't seem to hit out of the infield. He pitches well but still needs more power. The batters can crush his pitches sometimes. He has one more year he can play, and then it's all travel team. His two best friends are on travel teams and my son has expressed an interest, then sadly says he knows he won't ever make a travel or high school team. My husband works with our son sometimes and we have also enrolled him in clinics. We never push and we feel it is sad that sports have gotten to the point where kids who want to play sports can't. They can't make it onto a travel team, or Eventually they drop out when they see they don't play as well as others. Where we live is very competitive, and I think my son is up against kids who have been in "training" since they could walk. This is only my son's second year. He is almost twelve, so maybe his power will improve when he hits puberty.What do you say to your child when he says he stinks at sports? So far, we have told him all his strengths at baseball and also that he is a great kid. Baseball is only one piece of the pie.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

Many kids have the same problem. I've always wanted someone to make a league of "just for the fun of it" games. Arranging a league like THAT could earn a child some serious cred. And maybe college money;)

Remember that out of all these kids playing with top skills, only a few will play in college and fewer still, professionally. They will have spent their entire childhood climbing a short ladder. Now that, is painful.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Sounds like he really enjoys the game, tell him not to give up and keep working hard. Don't assume he won't make the travel team, coaches may see his determination and want him on the team. All players have strengths and weaknesses. He can work on his weaknesses. Talk with the coach, there are workouts that he could do to improve strength that are appropriate for the middle school level. If you do get to the point where he doesn't make a high school team, you could look into another league or his interests may even change.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

It's not really all about upper body strength. My son's league is made up of teams of boys ranging from 10-12 yrs old and some just turned 13. We have little tiny guys hitting against 12/13 year old pitchers that are taller than the coaches! It looks really strange. The coach just talked to my son today about pitching and hitting. He said the strength and momentum is in the legs. He said so many boys try to swing really hard at the really fast good pitches when all you need to do is have good form and make contact. One sweet little guy that never gets hits just got a homerun last week! It was all because the coaches worked on his form with him.

I would just keep letting him know he doesn't stink. Tell him what he does well. Mom's job is to support, not coach. Maybe the coach would like to help him out one on one if you explained it to him. Your son needs his confidence built up in a realistic way.

Let him enjoy his baseball while he can. My son ate, drank and slept baseball for the last few years. This spring he played on the school tennis team and now he wants to be a tennis star. Things change. Just encourage him to play whatever sport he wants for the season and let the chips fall where they may naturally.

p.s. Are you sure you don't have a Babe Ruth league in your area? We have Minor League (7-9), Little League (10-12) and Babe Ruth (13-15?). And from these teams they also have the best of the best on Tourney Teams. Just check around to make sure you are not missing anything.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Have you ever heard the phrase "baseball is a game of failure, whoever fails the least wins"? A guy named Fred Gallo said it and boy was he right on.

Watch a pro game with your son. See how many people strike out even at this elite level of talented players. Pros go through batting slumps, pitchers seem to magically lose their rhythm all the time. Players that look amazing one game can become the king of errors the next. That's in the BIG leagues!

Your little guy seems to be doing so much right. Thinking is every bit as important as physical in this game and the ones who listen and focus are desirable to coaches. He might make a travel team with those qualities and strong basic skills. He may not pitch or even play infield but if he sticks with it as he grows you never know where he could end up. Coaches look for players to fill gaps in their team, not necessarily the best physical players but the most useful for their needs.

Baseball and softball are huge around here but we have rec programs that anyone can play as well as Fall ball and travel teams. Honestly, very few kids even try out for travel, it's such a huge commitment. Two girls who only played rec all the way up made the HS varsity team this year as the only freshmen.

Make sure you're not over looking a recreational league nearby. Encourage him to try out for any available options. Talk to the coaches and other parents, sometimes knowing someone can help. I've got a late bloomer daughter who still hasn't hit her growth spurt. She pitches and plays first and is very aware of the advantage most of the other girls have on her. She makes up for it by being the heart of the team. The most focused, loudest cheerer and always calls the plays for the fielders. She is adored by her coaches and teammates.

Have your boy develop what he does well both physically and mentally. If he has the basic skills and plays with heart and drive someone will want him on their team. Help him visualize success, focus on the positive and never give up. Above all don't quit because you're sitting on the bench or playing outfield. Every position is important and being part of the team is an experience worth fighting for.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Could you encourage him to change his goal from making the travel team to enjoying where he is now? This would be a good life lesson to learn. Also I suggest that frequently we fail at meeting a goal because we try too hard; tense up etc. Letting go of having to make the team may help him more in the long run.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Well, for one thing, he's still growing! He has no idea what he will be capable of in one year or even in six months. So it's a little early to decide something will NEVER happen. He doesn't know what his best friends will be doing at that time, either. They may do well, or they may be cut from their teams, or they may decide they have other interests.

I understand what you're saying when you talk about competition. The son of a good friend loved soccer as a boy, but was shut out (or so he felt) when he didn't concentrate on soccer almost 24 hours a day - at age ten. The competition was that stiff, and winning, along with finding "winners," was the focus. There weren't any opportunities to play on a team just for fun and learning.

Has your son tried different kinds of sports? Has he tried martial arts, for instance? That's a whole different animal from baseball. Golf or tennis are other sports that come to mind. Sports aren't just for the ball field.

Anybody who is very interested in anything - not just athletics; it could be a school subject or anything else - feels frustration and disappointment when it appears that the door to that interest may be closing. But your boy (and you) need to be aware of when he's actually feeling frustrated and when he's feeling sorry for himself. "Are you having a pity party right now, James?" "Well, um, maybe." "Okay. If you are, finish it up in five minutes and let's go on to something else."

I'm sure this isn't very helpful right now, but maybe some of it will be - at a time later on. I believe the old saying is true that when God closes a door, He opens a window. But it can be really hard until you catch sight of that window.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It sounds like you and dad have put a lot of effort into helping your son improve at baseball --clinics, dad works with him, etc. -- and though you say you never push, and you surely are telling him "just do it for fun"-- he may be getting the unintended message that you and dad are pretty invested in his doing well at baseball, even if that truly is not what you meant to convey. Your son also is probably more aware than you realize that your area's kids' sports are highly competitive and I would wager that he hears friends talk along the lines of "When I make travel team" and "When I play high school ball" (not if -- when). Our area is the same way, and I hear parents talk about "Sally's going to do travel team soccer as soon as she's old enough" as if it's a foregone conclusion, etc.

So I hope there are other "pieces of the pie" where your son is involved as much as he is with baseball. Is he in Boy Scouts or another group where he can learn skills and do service? A church youth group, if that's your thing? Any clubs at school that are not sports-related, so he is well-rounded, such as a school Lego building club or chess club or science after-school program or drama or whatever? Or is the extracurricular focus just on baseball? By fifth grade in our schools here, there are many activities open to kids his age, and many are not sports-related.

He may be doing these things already and it just didn't come up in a sports question post here, and if that's the case -- great. But if his main or only thing is baseball, I'd consider continuing to support that but also ensuring that he sees you giving just as much effort to his Boy Scout troop, or helping with a school club he's in, etc., and that he knows you expect just as much effort from him in those activities as in baseball.

I talked with a mom yesterday of a soccer player. The kid wanted to try for travel team soccer because she's good but the mom pointed out: You also play in the school orchestra and like it (and is good at it); you are involved at scouting, etc. Travel team sports will end up taking priority over other activities period. The girl decided it wasn't for her; it's not a reflection on how well she plays but shows that she realized she has other things she enjoys too. If your son identifies himself solely as a baseball player, and it turns out he's a good player but not a travel team/high school team level player, does he have other activities he enjoys and does well at, so there's not a crash if he eventually is the kid who isn't on the travel team and clearly moving up and up in the sport?

He may end up a pro player; he just needs to be well-rounded and have other things going on. My daughter dances extensively (as many hours a week as most sports, and much more at certain times of year) and I am very involved with volunteering, helping out, taking her anywhere anytime, etc., but we also make sure that there is weight given to her other activities as well, so that she is not so focused on dance that if that went away -- and injury could take it, or a sport, away instantly -- she has other ways of seeing herself.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I simply tell my kids I love to watch them play. I don't critique them.
My little brother wasn't great with sports when he was in elementary and middle school. He sprouted up at 14 and ended started getting interested again. He ended up captain of the football team. This is a good article-

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You say no, you don't stink, and then you tell him what you see as his strengths in sports. You then tell him that he is playing for love of the game, not because he is a sports superstar. You tell him to stop comparing himself with other players and just enjoy the sport.

There must be some league he can play on in your area where he doesn't need to be a superstar in order to play.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Tell him that having fun is more important than being good. Tell him to take the pressure off himself and enjoy the things he does well, rather than dwell on the things other kids can do better. I played softball from ages 6 - 11 and I was terrible. I knew I was terrible, but I had fun being out there and kept playing. I finally quit only because the pitching got so fast that I was terrified to be at the plate! (I'm a wimp)

Does your area have any non-competitive rec leagues? Maybe there is some kind of other league he can play in once the regular league becomes travel team only. It is pretty typical that, once kids are 13 or 14, regular Little League (or Pony League) opportunities end and they have to go to travel or high school ball. But, I would see if there is something similar to an adult softball league for kids in your son's situation.

Most importantly, tell him it's all about having fun, getting exercise, and hanging out with friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

It is sad. I know a mom that had a daughter who played softball from 4 years old. She had scouts watching her before she ever got on traveling teams.

I know when her daughter came to her and said I don't want to play softball anymore it was devastating. They had hoped she stay playing for her high school and that college would be paid for too.

They weren't a high income family so paying cash for college wasn't going to happen.

As it turned out she didn't go to college at all.

I think that you need to find another activity he loves and can be successful at. There are many hobbies kids can do and make something of.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Talk to his coach and ask which exercises he can do to increase his upper body strength.
He will soon hit his growth spurt and his muscles will mature along with the rest of his body.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

aw, that's such a hard thing. i love how you've handled it thus far. i wish there were still just pick-up games in towns and neighborhoods. i guess there are still some, but not nearly as often as there used to be, back in the days before there were many leagues and try-outs.
i'd keep on with the great attitude you have now, encouraging him but not making baseball the be-all and end-all of life. make sure he has opportunities to check out other sports, and activities that have nothing to do with sports, and be just as encouraging when he shows interest in things that will fill the gap when 'fun' baseball is no longer an option.
it was a tough week or two when our younger, who was in LL for 9 years, tried out for pony league and didn't make it. we all slumped a little, knowing that after over a decade as a 'baseball family' that era was over. but i think it's important that while you show your son you understand and are empathetic, that you don't go overboard on the sympathy. it's just another life phase- some things we love stay forever, and some are just steps on the journey. commiserate warmly and sincerely, but redirect him to the next Awesome Adventure. because there really will be lots of them!
hugs, mama.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

There are plenty of great people in various sports who had a late start in their field. You are right, there are plenty who have played since they could walk, but some lose interest.

What I heard that caught my attention is that your son is focused and doing things accurately, which means he has great technique. He just lacks power.

Does he work on his upper core? He doesn't have to have too hot to trot abs, but perhaps needs to strengthen them. There are plenty of simple exercises he can do to strengthen them. Google them.

My daughter has some great strong legs, but has a little food baby. She has to do the same thing. She figure skates and will have to reduce the size of her belly and strengthen it, in order to go to the next level. It is getting more difficult and the jumps will require the strength. She is a tall 8 year old, so people (the skate director) expect more from her because she looks like she is 10 or 11, when actually she is right on track.

Once she strengthens her core, it will help her in her other sports. Tennis, hockey, goalie, biking, and swimming.

You just don't see great athletes with tummies. He will have to work for it, as you cannot expect puberty to make him stronger alone.

As for making the team, if he is not ready for a travel team, you should be able to find a house league for him.

It is a choice and if he is up for it, let him do it. You can guide him and let him know what it will take to get there. You can also youtube how to be a great pitcher, batter, etc., I am sure you will find some great videos.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Sounds like he has skill; just needs to hone his skill AND work on his upper body strength.

Can you find someone good to coach him privately? Just to help him work on things.

Also, do you & hubby belong to a gym? It would be good for him to get a trainer there (some have 3 free training sessions) to help him build his upper body strength. ((Have the trainer show him a few lower body exercises to he can take that with him going forward & have a well balanced body. Get it while you have the first 3 free sessions.)).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


We're baseball fans in this house! My nephews played as well. My oldest nephew was drafted, 3rd round, by the Houston Astros at the age of 17...that's how baseball we are!!

You can help your son get stronger in upper body strength. You can go through the fitness program - does your city or town have one of those running trails that has stations along the way to work out? Push ups, sit ups, etc.? If not - then make a course or a family event where you all work out together...

I would then talk to the coach and find out what he needs - I would NOT do this during a practice or before/after a game. Do it when your son is not around so that you and the coach and talk freely. Find out from the coaches at the clinics what they feel he needs to work on...remember you are PAYING these people at clinics to teach your son.

My son wanted to be a catcher - found out it is the most important position on the team...the catcher tells the pitcher what to throw. the catcher tells the team the outs, etc...the catcher determines who can get over his plate...and he's good too!! it's a HARD job. We have paid a few thousand in skills clinics and they have paid off...he is learning all the time..

I would also suggest La Crosse - it's a sport that increases upper body strength as well as hand-eye coordination and much's a blend of soccer, baseball, football and hockey.

In regards to the travel team? He will NEVER know until he tries!! With a bad attitude - "he know's he'll never make it" - is the WRONG attitude to take...he's talking like a defeatist rather than a winner.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I think not pushing is so important, and your last line (baseball is only one piece of the pie) is great. Also, he definitely doesn't 'stink' at sports--he just isn't competitive team ready now. He has potential and some ability. It's good you are reminding him of what he can do well in this area as well as others, and you might be right that it's a matter of time, that other kids have grown earlier than he has. He is still young and maybe he will become more powerful or skilled as he grow.

That would be great, however from what you are saying, he isn't going to become a professional athlete. So, the real question is how you and your husband can prepare him for a lifetime of enjoying physical activity without needing to be chosen for teams and so on. For now, maybe you can find places where he can play ball for fun and activity with other kids like him who aren't travel teamers now.

Long term, I wonder if it might be to his best advantage to emphasize the things he can do which don't involve making a team. I liked what Leigh R and Kaseyirv said--consider whether you can find ways to put team sport play into perspective, as one part--and only one part--of raising a well-rounded, happy adult. Anyway, good luck with it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Have you talked to his coach (and does he have a good one)? That can make a huge difference at this age. If he throws fields and well, but batters can crush his pitches, I'm wondering why they don't make him a second baseman or shortstop.

For the batting, have you talked to the coach about his form? Does he practice using a tee? My husband coaches baseball, and spends a lot of time using a tee for kids who need to work on their swing. It focuses them on how to swing because they don't have to worry about timing, just swinging - a good swing is about form and hitting the ball with the sweet spot on the bat, it's not about strength. It may be that because he missed the t-ball/coach-pitch years, he missed learning something fundamental about how to swing, and he need to work on the basics a bit. A good coach should be able to tell you.

Of course, there is the possibility that he's not going to make the team.

If so (or even if he does make the team), have you thought about trying out another sport that is not as competitive? Around here, baseball and football are competitive, and by 5th grade, all the teams have tryouts, as you are experiencing. But, my kids also love dek hockey. Dek hockey here is all club teams, meaning they are more about having fun and not as competitive, no tryouts. And it's year-round so kids can play all the time or they can play in the off-season of whatever else they want to play. It's a lot of running, so they get a lot of exercise year round. I have one child that does baseball in the spring and dek hockey the rest of the year, and another who does soccer in the spring and dek hockey the rest of the year.

1 mom found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions