Care and Feeding

Coaches Keep Putting My Talented 10-Year-Old Catcher in Center Field!

A softball dad seeks advice on playing time and sportsmanship.

A girl in a softball jersey with a glove and a visor.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jupiterimages.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 10-year-old daughter, Victoria, has been playing softball for five years and competitive travel ball for four. When she first started and was placed in the outfield, I told her that, even if she would rather be an infielder (who wouldn’t, in youth ball?), she would be the best outfielder she could be. We went to the park on off days for me to hit her fly balls and work on her throwing arm, and she became really good at both skills. It worked, and even coaches from other teams gushed about her ability. The problem is, it was still the outfield, and she was lucky if more than one ball in a game came her way, which left her bored.

When she was moving up to 10u for the fall instructional season, she wound up with a different coach. On the first day of practice, when the coach announced that every position on the team was up for grabs, Victoria told him she wanted to catch. And the coach—whose daughter was an experienced catcher—said, “OK, let’s see what you’ve got.” The first weekend we played, when a game turned into a blowout early, he told her to put on the gear. She fell in love with it, and God bless him, he made sure she got plenty of time behind the plate the rest of the season. We started getting her private catching instruction.

The following spring, her previous coaches took her after tryouts, knowing that she had been working and developing as a catcher, and told her (and me) that she would rotate and compete with their catcher from the fall. She was excited to be back with her old teammates and looked forward to it—until she realized that she was catching in practice but never in a game. There was no competition. She was in center field every game and really unhappy about it.

At the end of the 2019 season, another local organization invited Victoria to come play for a team they were putting together just for a major tournament being hosted in their city. They specifically invited her because they heard she was a catcher and they did not have any experienced catchers, and her star pitcher friend recommended her. We paid the (rather substantial) registration fees and went to the somewhat inconvenient practices because it was an opportunity to get catching time, and she was very enthusiastic about it. Apparently, after we agreed to participate, so did another, somewhat less experienced catcher.

The tournament started yesterday, and, of course, she was in center field. I bit my tongue and figured I would make the best of it. She made a running catch of a fly ball and walked, stole a base, and scored in her first (and only) time at-bat. Then, as the game became a bit lopsided, she was benched to get a sub some playing time. Victoria was never reentered as the game became a blowout—the sub got three at-bats and dropped an easy fly ball (although she recovered to throw out the runner at second). I was pissed off and angry—this is a tournament that gives prestigious individual awards for offensive and defensive players, and you can’t win those from the bench—and Victoria knew it. I didn’t say anything to the coach, because I don’t want to be that parent.

I had a beer at lunch and calmed down before we had to reconvene for an evening tournament event where each coach chose four players to represent the team on the field with professional ballplayers. However, when I saw the list of players from our team, I melted down. There were three legitimate choices, and the girl who was subbed in for Victoria. I didn’t think Victoria should be out there—she didn’t have the chance to contribute more, after all—but the kid who struck out twice and botched a play was being recognized?! I basically threw my kid in the car and headed for home. She convinced me to turn around and bring her back because she was worried that her nonpresence would negatively affect the coach’s decisions and she didn’t want to let down her teammates. (So, my kid is a better human being than I ever will be.)

Here is my problem: She is reaching a point in softball where a lack of game repetitions will really start to disadvantage her if she ever does get an opportunity to compete for a job. I am dealing with a lot of rage and frustration at seeing how much time and effort my kid puts into catching, and how much time and money I put in, only to have her skill at being an outfielder cost her opportunities to do what she wants. It makes me want to quit softball altogether, but she doesn’t, and she is constantly worried that I will force her to quit. (The fact that I angrily verbalize that desire may have something to do with it.) At the same time, when I tell my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be if she works at it, only to have coach after coach tell her “You’re an outfielder, deal with it” without giving her anything close to a fair opportunity to be a catcher, I feel like I’ve failed. I’m losing sleep over this, because I know that resentment and anger over this stupid stuff makes me a jerk, but I can’t help but feel resentment and anger, and I don’t want to be a jerk to my daughter.

—Youth Sports Suck

Dear YSS,

Sir, I can tell you love your daughter and believe in her with all your heart, but you need to shut the hell up and chill the hell out. This is madness! She is a 10-year-old. She was 5 when you started working with her on softball. And you have written 1,430 words to me about her softball career. (I edited some of them out.)

Stop. Your anger is the problem. You “basically threw her in the car” and peeled away from a game she wanted to stay and cheer for her teammates through because you thought your daughter should have been on the roster? You needed a beer to calm down over your 10-year-old daughter being placed in center field?

“I didn’t say anything to the coaches because I didn’t want to be that parent.” You are that parent. They know you’re that parent. Your kid knows you’re that parent.

Your child cannot, in fact, be anything she wants to be if she works hard enough at it, so stop telling her that. She’d prefer to be a catcher, but her coaches have her in the outfield. She still wants to play. “She is constantly worried I will force her to quit.” Can you hear yourself? “Compete for a job”? She’s 10.

Stop the private catching lessons. Go to her games. Cheer. Tell her she did a great job. Find a therapist and work on your anger. I am being hard on you because you are going to actually ruin her childhood if you don’t get a sharp redirect. You’re a committed father who has lost the plot entirely.

This is unacceptable behavior. It would be unacceptable behavior if your kid were a 16-year-old elite gymnast gunning for the Olympics. Fix it. Fix it now, when she’s 10, so she will only remember that her dad went way too hard when she was in youth softball, but he mellowed out and you had some great times together.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter will be 3 in October and has been in preschool since last fall. During the school year, dropping her off was never a problem, even in the very beginning. A kiss and she was off playing. Over the past few weeks, drop-offs have been hell. She cries, clings, wants “one more hug.” I want to know what I’ve done wrong. Her sister arrived in November, so her dad has been doing more of my toddler’s day-to-day care than previously, but I’m still there for breakfast, dinner, every bedtime, and virtually all weekend. She has adjusted to her sister very well and seems to relish helping me take care of her; I don’t see any jealousy issues except for the occasional objection to the baby playing with her toys.

The teachers say she is fine as soon as the painful goodbye is over, but I am still worried. Shouldn’t she be getting less clingy as she gets older, not more? What is going on? Do we need to take her to a psychologist?

I’m just trying to do my best here and feel guilty at the thought of not doing everything I possibly can for her. I work outside the home, which adds to the guilty feeling of course.

—How Do I Fix This

Dear HDIFT,

There’s nothing to fix. Everything is OK. This is very standard, extremely minor, new sibling regression. She loves the baby, she loves you, she loves her dad, she’s happy at school, but she’s getting a little less of you than she wishes she did and she wants that extra hug, that extra moment.

Please do not let your guilt run the show on this. You’re doing a fine job! She does not need a psychologist.

I know this seems like it’s out of nowhere, but it’s probably just that in stretching out drop-off she has found a way to be the baby again, where you are 100 percent focused on her and comforting her. Which is fine. Try to cram in extra togetherness where you can, slowly cut back on your willingness to let her cling at drop-off, and give it some time.

It’s going to be OK.

• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband won’t stop biting our 1-year-old son. He does it out of affection, and while he’s never drawn blood (I can’t believe I have to say that), he does it hard enough to leave marks. I don’t like this. Our son, who is not yet verbal, reacts anywhere from smiling to pushing away to whining. If my husband notices these signals, he doesn’t respond to them. Meanwhile, I am trying to teach our son not to bite me, which he is doing with increasing frequency and vigor these days. I feel like all of the biting from his dad is not helping matters.

This is a big deal to me. I don’t want our son to be hurt or feel violated, I don’t want him to learn that it’s an OK thing to bite others, and I don’t want him to learn that you can do whatever you want to other people’s bodies as long as it feels right to you. I’ve explained all of this to my husband numerous times and asked him to stop biting our son. He thinks that I’m being hysterical and insists that it’s OK because its “genuine” and “how he expresses his love.” I’ve asked him to try expressing his love in nonbiting ways (hugging, kissing, nuzzling, etc.), but he says he doesn’t want to stop.

—Married to a Vampire

Dear MtaV,

Immediate counseling, do not pass go. This is utterly ridiculous. Of course your attempts to teach your son not to bite are failing!

You need this to stop, and you have been exceptionally clear, and he is behaving abusively. I’m hoping he needs a third party to tell him that, but I’m very concerned. Please update me.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Please settle this battle between my 16-year-old and myself. She wants to put a lock on her bedroom door. (Her younger brother does, admittedly, bust in on her a lot.) I just don’t like the idea. I don’t like the idea of locks in my house, I don’t think she really knows what she’s asking for, and it’s causing a lot of fights.

—The House Is for Everyone

Dear THIfE,

Let her put a lock on the door. She’s 16. She’ll be an adult and out the door in two years. She deserves to be able to masturbate in peace. This is the easiest question I have ever gotten. Thank you.

—Nicole

More Advice From Slate

I hit the jackpot with my husband. He treats me like a queen, cleans the house, has a successful career that allows me to be a stay-at-home mom, encourages me to have evenings out with girlfriends, etc. We’ve been happily married for 10 years and have two wonderful children ages 5 and 7. My concern is that while I know he loves our children, he doesn’t enjoy them. He was raised by an obsessive-compulsive-type mother who still vacuums twice a day. He barks at the kids if there’s a sock lying around or a toy on the floor. He thinks, wrongly, that they are naughtier than other children, and I feel defensive that he’s criticizing the way I’m raising them. Should I just accept that he’ll always be hard on them?