As my blog subtitles alludes to, I am a middle aged fellow. So with that personal timeline reminder, I am able to look back and compare things from a few decades of experience and comment on the things that I believe we might be missing in the bigger picture.
Now that the school year is almost complete, the activities of the school day will be replaced with the thrill and freedom of summertime. Parents change gears and begin to schedule and organize the neighborhood “play-date.” This is simply a time for the adults in charge to know where all the grass stains and scrapes will take place. Besides the everyday neighborhood summer play, the other things to be scheduled are the day camps, outings, swim lessons, and then to end the day there is always baseball or softball practice for the rest of the evening. Coaches everywhere are teaching proper batting stances, fielding, and throwing to their teams. It won’t be long until games will be played every night of the week and the lights over some ball fields will be brighter than all the street lights for miles.
I played a lot of little league baseball in the 1970’s and early 80’s. When it came to your defense in the field, my coaches told me to pay attention and focus on the batter and get ready for the swing. Be ready to know what you would do with the ball if it was hit to you. Also, coaches would yell out to their players that they wanted to hear some “chatter.” This amounted to the chant of “Hey batter, hey batter, SWING!” or some versions sounded more like “Aye batter, Aye batter, SWING!” With the shout of “SWING” players would pound their gloves and crouch down just a little lower and get ready for the crack of the bat.
Well fast forward 30 years… when my two daughters played organized softball; I heard this “chatter” become very negative. Its intended purpose was to be cute and get the girls focused but what I noticed in the stands were many of them were anything but ready for the ball to come to them with all the little limericks being chanted. It wasn’t long before I told my girls to not participate in that “chatter.” I wanted them to be ready and focus on their position and I wanted my girls to give positive and encouraging talk to their pitcher and other players between balls thrown.
Some of the sample “chatter” in those middle years of 2000 was:
● My name is _______ and you know what I got? I got a team that’s hotter than hot. Grand slams and homeruns too, uuh-huh uuh-huh! We are going to beat the woopings out of you!
● Hey pitcher look at me! I’m a monkey in a tree! Oh-ee, Oh-ee.
●Hey pitcher what’s the matter? Can’t you stand a little chatter? High ball, low ball, inside outside – High ball, low ball, inside outside.
My girls grew up and didn’t continue to play organized softball. They moved on to other sports and music. So my time was finished with seeing the development of young ball players until our best friends in the neighborhood had their second daughter seven years after our youngest. It gave me a chance to watch some more ball! When Haley was old enough for softball, I looked forward to her games. I sat way out in the outfield and just wanted to smell the fresh mowed grass and see what this generation of ball players looked like.
To my surprise in seven years the “chatter” got worse. It was outright bullying. I was the only one apparently disturbed that little girls were being encouraged to say these bullying chants from the field and from the bench alike – the louder, the better! Gone was the time for the player to focus on playing the field and encouraging their pitcher. It was all about trying to be ruder and more obnoxious.
Time to share some of the more outrageous ones that are out there today:
● Hit it hard, down the middle, make the pitcher bend a little, make her (clap, clap) eat some dirt.
● Strawberry shortcake, banana split, we made your team look like – shift to the left, shift to the right, stand up, sit down – fight, fight, fight!
● (To the pitcher with high balls) Everybody! Someone call the doctor she’s throwing up! (players make vomit sound)
● My name is ______ (sound of bats cracking fence). I’m feeling fine (bats crack again). You mess with me (bats crack), I’ll blow your mind. I said bang-bang choo-choo train, wind me up, I’ll do my thang. I know karate, I know kung fu, you mess with me, I’ll mess with you.
● Down by the river (repeat), took a little walk (repeat), met up with (other team) (repeat), had a little talk (repeat). Pushed ‘em in the river (repeat), hung ‘em out to dry (repeat), we can beat (other team)(repeat) any old time (repeat).
●Error, error, whoo-whoo. Error, error, whoo-whoo. You did it, you did it, you might as well admit it, ‘cause one you make an error, we won’t let you FORGET IT!
● (Your player’s name) is a friend of mine. She can hit it anytime. Put a bat in her hand, she can do it, yes she can. Hit, na-na-na! Rip, na-na-na! Hit it hard, hit it fast. Knock that pitcher on her… na-na-na-na, na-na,na,na.
Is it done with fun intentions? Well yes, I hope so!
But just as we ask of all our umpires who work behind the plate calling balls and strikes…. Call them as you see them.
Okay, I will – this is not good! It does teach bullying which is the most important message of this post, but secondarily it upsets me because it doesn’t teach the girls to be ready for the play. People think you have to have girls learn a sport with cuteness and these ridiculous cheers for them to stay with it. I disagree. If that is what it takes, then why do the silly cheers and chants stop when the girls get into the older leagues?
Bottom line: It doesn’t work! When girls are learning the game, there are a lot of mistakes. That is exactly what learning a sport and honing your skills is supposed to be as you get smarter, stronger, and faster to playing the great game of baseball/softball.
Question for the coaches: Coaches why encourage your team to ridicule other players during their development years? Does it make you and your players feel good? Well guess what?
Congratulations – You are subscribing to the act of athletic bullying. I guess it is easier to teach your team the latest cheers than how to play the game with passion, sportsmanship and respect.