One Kid and His Sports Career

As Observed by His Totally Objective Grandmother

Photo by Bobby Davis Photography

One of the great joys of my life to this point has been watching my grandchildren participate and excel at sports.

This story includes some of my favorite memories watching my only grandson play sports from the age of four through high school. I guess you could call it bragging. But I’ve heard it said that bragging isn’t bragging if it’s true.

And this is the true story of exciting sports memories and the personal character one boy exemplified through sports. I think it is an appropriate tribute to the responsible and compassionate young man he has become, as exemplified by his participation in sports.

My grandson, Seth, has always loved playing sports. He started playing soccer at the age of four, baseball soon afterward, and added tennis as a high school athlete. He graduates from high school in 2021, having experienced sports seasons cancelled or cut short amid restrictions his junior and senior years.

My first memories of Seth playing soccer were when he was four years old. If you’ve ever watched children of this age play soccer, you may know that the players move all over the field in a synchronous group surrounding the ball. There is no such thing as a playing a position. They simply move anywhere the ball moves, except for Seth.

In his first year of soccer, the players were again moving around the field as one group. Seth, however, ran outside the rest of the players. Whenever the ball somehow escaped from the player mass, Seth went into action, dribbling the ball toward the goal and scoring. He did this over and over throughout the game. He never joined in the soccer mass of players!

When Seth was about 9 or 10 years old, he continued his peripheral soccer playing. In one particular game, he seemed to score every time he got the ball. The coach of the other team was so frustrated, he kept calling out to the referee that Seth was holding, which of course is not allowed, and which was untrue. But none of this affected Seth in any way. He just kept dribbling the ball when it escaped from the player mass and scoring goals. The other coach kept complaining about Seth’s performance and was eventually ejected from the game.

Seth’s coach finally put him in as goalie to allow other kids the opportunity to handle the ball and perhaps score. And some did, but not on the opposing team. As goalie, Seth stopped every ball the other team attempted to kick into the goal. You could tell he loved the game from the very beginning.

As a soccer player, Seth had an uncanny sense of the game. Once, his team was ahead with just a few minutes to play. Although he usually played offense as one of the leading scorers, the coach shifted him to defense.

As the opposing team tried to move the ball into scoring position, Seth kept kicking the ball out of bounds. Therefore, the other team had to run to retrieve the ball and restart the play. After repeated instances of this action, the other coach hollered at a player on the opposing team to kick the ball toward the goal. In desperation, the kid replied in reference to Seth, “He just keeps kicking it out!” Seth knew the game was almost over and did whatever he could to allow the time to run out and keep the other team from scoring.

In another soccer game, Seth was advancing down the field with the ball intent on scoring a goal when another boy came up and stole the ball from him. My husband mentioned the play to Seth after the game, and he replied, “Yeah, he was better than I thought he was”.

From that point on, Seth reassessed his estimation of the kid and adjusted his play accordingly. That was the kind of player he was. He gave credit where credit was due. Then he raised his level of play to be more competitive.

Although my grandson’s first love was soccer, he was equally adept at baseball. Watching five-year-old’s playing baseball is such fun! Multiple coaches (fathers) scattered all over the field to teach the kids to field the ball, where to throw it, and how to run the bases whenever someone managed to hit the ball into the playing field.

In this game, Seth was playing at the pitcher’s mound. He was not the pitcher, because the coaches pitched underhanded to the batters. It was a real feat to pitch the ball so it actually hit the bat, thereby engaging a run to first base.

After everyone on the team had a chance to bat, they switched sides and the same process ensued. There was rarely a play in which the ball was fielded, thrown to a base and a batter tagged out.

However, on this day, Seth was playing at the pitcher’s mound and the batter hit a popup to the pitcher. Seth focused on the ball in the air and appropriately stuck out his glove, snaring the ball for the last out of the game. His coach was so excited, he ran up to Seth and swooped him up in his arms in congratulations. To Seth, it was just another day of baseball fun. I don’t think he realized it was the only actual catch of the day!

When Seth’s age group of kids playing local league baseball graduated to pitching, at about ages 9 or 10, Seth played infield, usually second base. Because he was one of the smaller players, the bigger, stronger boys played shortstop or pitcher. Before every game, the designated pitchers warmed up by throwing to the catchers, getting ready to pitch when called upon in the game.

However, when all the pitchers on the team had pitched wildly or allowed the other team to consistently get hits from their pitching, Seth was given the ball to pitch. I remember three such occasions. Of course, this was only after there was no one else left to pitch, and the coach was desperate to find someone who could actually throw the ball over the plate.

What always astounded me was that although I was tense and concerned watching him pitch, Seth was always calm and cool. He never shouted, cheered or jeered the other players. He just did what was needed to be done, and never boasted or seemed overly proud of his accomplishments.

My first memory of Seth pitching was played at the opposing team’s field. That team was undefeated and had several “big” boys who were very good athletes. And Seth was called into pitch in the usual situation. Every pitcher on the team was either too wild or their pitches were being hit too much. And the score was always in favor of the other team.

Seth threw a few wild pitches, but then he settled into a rhythm. We, the parents and grandparents, noticed that Seth was a little erratic. Sometimes his pitches were “in the dirt” or outside the strike zone. Then other times, he could pitch it right down the middle of the plate.

After several batters we realized that whenever one of the other team’s best batters came to the plate, Seth only threw them “junk”, which meant every ball he threw was out of reach for them to hit. And they wanted to hit the ball so badly, that they swung at balls in the dirt or over their head, often resulting in a strikeout! The kids who were obviously not very athletic were pitched balls in the strike zone, which also usually resulted in a strikeout.

The outcome of the game? Seth shut down the hitting of the other team, and we were able to score enough runs to win the game!

In the same baseball season, the tournament came down to the final game of the season with Seth’s team and a much stronger undefeated team facing each other. The other team also had the biggest, strongest pitcher in the league rested and ready to pitch for the championship game.

As expected, Seth’s team soon found themselves behind in the score and our pitchers running out of steam, giving up hit after hit. Once more, the coach brought Seth in the game to pitch. And as usual, he started off a little rocky. He threw a beautiful pitch right down the middle and the batter, which was the other team’s star pitcher as well as best batter, connected to hit the ball out of the park.

As he rounded the bases, Seth stepped over to the baseline and congratulated the kid with a “high five”. It was this kind of unsolicited sportsmanship that always made me the proudest when watching Seth play. And I’ve watched this respect for the athleticism of others play out over and over through the years. Seth always congratulated the other team or individual players for their accomplishments.

But, back to the baseball championship game. After Seth gave up the home run, he settled into pitching to match the ability of each batter. If the batter was a good hitter, Seth made sure he didn’t give him anything to hit. If he knew the batter was unlikely to hit the ball, he pitched him strikes. Soon, Seth was racking up the strikeouts.

And spectators watching other games kept strolling over to see what was going on. By the end of the game, most of the crowd in the park had gathered around in the stands and on the sideline to watch this cool little pitcher control the game. And he did. It was an amazing thing to watch. We won the championship!

In the third memorable baseball game, Seth, who (as I already said) was never considered a pitcher, was again put in the game to pitch. I don’t even remember the outcome of this game. Seth was probably around 12 years old, and as always calm and focused on his job on the team.

With two outs, he delivered the pitch and the batter hit a line shot about knee high up the middle just to the right of Seth. He reached over, caught the ball and calmly dropped it out of his glove and trotted into the dugout. No fanfare, no celebrating. He was just executing his role on the team. My husband recorded the game, and I bet I’ve watched that one play a hundred times!

Fast forward to high school athletics. Between his sophomore and junior year, Seth shot up to about 6 feet tall. While he had always been a good soccer player, he was becoming an even better competitor. He also made the tennis team, winning a few games his first season.

By this time, I had come to expect and respect Seth’s athletic prowess. I also had come to expect and respect his quiet leadership and constant sportsmanship on the field.

2020 eliminated my grandson’s tennis season and pushed his final soccer season to the winter of 2021, reducing the length of the season. Yet during this time, I never heard him complain about missing so much his last two years of high school. He seemed to take it all in stride.

The soccer season of Seth’s junior year ended in the first round of the state playoffs, as his team hosted a visiting team ranked lower than his. The game ended in a tie, which necessitated a shootout, in which the two teams selected players from each team alternately taking an unobstructed shot at the goal, which was defended by the other team’s goalie.

Seth was one of the players selected to take the kick for his team, which he did and made the shot. When a player from each team made the goal, the next assigned players advanced for a shot on the goal. It took seven shootouts (14 total players) to finally determine a winner, which happened to be the other team. Seth’s team was crushed.

But my favorite moment of the game came after the game was over. The local newspaper printed a photo of Seth consoling his team’s goalie, a senior who gave it everything he had, but just coming up short of the win. (See featured image.)

In his final soccer season as a senior, Seth continued to show that there is no “I” in “T E A M”. Although he has kicked several great goals, his defining moments came in celebration of the accomplishments of his teammates.

Once, a penalty on the other team resulted in a free kick on the goal by Seth’s team. Immediately, as a Senior captain, Seth held up his hand and motioned for a freshman to come and take the kick. The freshman was a very good soccer player relegated to playing defense because upperclassmen played the offensive positions. He made the goal, and Seth made his day.

In the final game of the season, Seth and his teammates were playing to clinch first place in the conference with an undefeated season. They were playing a better team that they had beaten in an earlier match in a game filled with miracle shots. So, the other team was “gunning’ for them.

Most of the first half involved fighting for control of the ball, resulting in no score. However, Seth eventually broke away from both teams in a sprint that put his team ahead as he made the goal.

We won the game and clinched both the conference championship and a playoff berth. But that game was not without conflict. Two players from the other team were ejected from the game for their unsportsmanlike play.

When the game ended, Seth’s team celebrated appropriately. Then, Seth immediately went to the other team to congratulate their players for a hard-fought match.

As Seth’s competitive athletic career came to a close, it saddened me. But the strength of character and demonstration of sportsmanship I have witnessed from his earliest participation in sports through high school swells me with pride and thankfulness to have a grandson like that. Thanks for the memories, Seth.

I’m Vicki Peel, Ed.D., a retired educator, obviously proud grandmother and blogger. As a former high school home economics teacher, I started H.E.R. Life Hacks to share my expertise in areas of home style, lifestyle, and food. It all comes down to family and its importance in a life well-lived.

H.E.R. stands for Home Economics Reimagined. Download my free report, Self-Care Hacks at https://herlifehacks.com

Is life peaceful & intentional? A retired educator & HGTV fan, I reimagined home economics for today’s world. Claim your Self-Care Hacks at HERLifeHacks.com

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