When I was growing up, I didn’t get to play many sports. My brother did, but it wasn’t as popular for girls to play when I was young. When I did play, it was just two seasons and because we didn’t commit to summer camp, I stayed on JV. By my senior year, it was important for the coach to play younger girls who would eventually move up to varsity. It wasn’t that special of an experience.
When I first started teaching, I started coaching two, then three sports. I wasn’t the best coach, but I loved coaching and think I had something to contribute to my teams. I grew in my confidence, especially in volleyball and softball.
I really felt strongly about the importance of playing sports. So when Liam was old enough, we tried him in t-ball. Now, we had learned that playing team sports was difficult for children with ASD. Remember central coherence? Well, being able to see details and not the “big picture” makes one great at math, but not soccer, football, lacrosse… team games. I thought, maybe it would help Liam’s social skills to try out baseball though. At that age, it’s not a “team” sport, as much as one that just gets kids to work on a team and develop skills.
Although Liam loves running now, he was a slow runner at first. During one practice, the team had to run out to the outfield fence and back. Liam was still running out to the fence when most of the team was on their way back. Cleverly, he turned around and started to run back with the team. Well, didn’t I jump in and tell him he had to do it right? He was not happy with me.
Liam couldn’t throw far, but he could bat off the T. He was afraid of getting hit when someone threw him the ball. Overall, t-ball was boring. During games, Liam was the lead expert (who had quite a few followers) who used the field dirt to draw. At least Liam was doing math – ha! The coach’s son was also someone who required extra patience. Overall, it was a great team to be on – Liam didn’t stick out too much, except for the running.
He announced after the first game that he wanted to quit. I said no. I shared with him that he never had to play again, but that he had made a commitment to the team for this season and had to finish it out. He wasn’t crying during games or becoming overly stressed when going to practice. He just didn’t like it. My husband and I had a huge disagreement over this – he thought Liam should be allowed to quit if he wanted to.
Maybe I was being mean. Around this same time, even Liam’s developmental pediatrician commented that I was really hard on Liam. Honestly, I would have said the same thing (about quitting) to any of our kids. When Kieran wanted to quit t-ball, and soccer (which I will talk about later this week), I said the same thing. I have learned that sometimes Liam has to deal with “this world.” It wasn’t always going to work for him to retreat from a situation. He wasn’t being hurt or asked to do something that he wasn’t able to do. So I made him finish.
Did the season get a lot better? No. But he did learn that he could do something hard and be a part of a team. He has never played that sport again, but he has been on many other teams and has even participated in three sports to date (which I will talk about when we get to middle school stories).
Maybe I wasn’t the meanest mom on the planet after all.