As Little League season is getting ready to begin in April here in Montana, I am reminded of the hours (DAYS) I spent at various fields cheering for my oldest son and his team as they became, 'the boys of summer'.
Josh began T-Ball the very first year it was possible for him to join. We were living in Flagstaff, AZ at the time, and he was going to turn 5 at the end of April, and he loved nothing more than going to the practice field, no matter how cold, or hot it was to play his favorite sport. We moved to Montana the January before he turned 10, so when ball season rolled around, he was in "real" Little League, not junior Little League. He'd been through good coaches, mediocre coaches, and one truly bad coach. He was not a "natural". He really had to work at it. He had ADD and while it hindered him in school, he concentrated fiercely at practice and games. He spent years in the no-man's land of right field. He was undaunted by ALL the negatives. It was his team, and this was his game. He LOVED baseball. His hero was Ozzie Smith. I figure going to a game between his beloved St. Louis Cardinals and the LA Dodgers while pregnant with him probably had something to do with it. :)
Here in MT, as in Flagstaff, due to the unpredictable weather in the spring as well as the distances between other teams, baseball was not a school sport. There were no school rules about keeping grades above a certain GPA in order to play on a Little League team. School had an "F" rule. If you were receiving a failing grade in a class, you were not allowed on the team until you brought it up to at least a D. In our home, we had a "D" rule. If you were receiving a D or below in a class, you were not allowed on the team, or to do anything else, until the grade came up to a C. As hard as Josh had to work with his ADD, we knew he was capable of 'C' work without THAT much extra effort.
Little League ends here for these boys when they turn 16. The summer they're 15 is the final summer they're allowed to play regular Little League. Josh's last 2 years of Little League were on what Montanans refer to as the Babe Ruth League. The mound and bases are regulation, major-league distances apart, and of course the entire field is bigger. While each small town may have 4 regular Little League fields in their baseball "complex", each only had one Babe Ruth field.
The first year on Babe Ruth, he again began as a right-fielder, but his new Coach decided to try him in the infield. On first base. The Coach and Josh never looked back. He looked like he'd grown there! He was an amazing first baseman! I think, in two years on first base, ONE ball got past him. One. He'd come into his own, and it was good.
His final year playing ball, teams formed and practice started soon after the last 9 weeks of school began. As usual, at the 4 /12 week mark, Progress Reports came in the mail. And life as he/we knew it came to a halt. He was getting a "D" in math.
When he got home from school that day, I informed him there would be no more baseball practice until the grade came up. He was speechless. And that didn't happen often!. Then he cried, he screamed, he said things like "Mom, you CAN'T, you WON'T! PLEEEASSE MOM!!!" I really tried to remain calm because this was killing me too. This was the ONLY sport this kid played/lived/breathed/LOVED! And it was his LAST year!!! I told him I would talk to his math teacher and arrange for a twice-a-week report to come home to see how the homework, quizzes, and tests were going. As soon as Mr. D. said Josh's grade was a C, he could rejoin his team. Then I went with him to the ball field to tell the Coach what I was doing. Josh sat in the car while I spoke to the Coach. He was mortified. I was too, but was also a Mom, determined to stick to the rule we'd set out for his own good. The Coach agreed to work around Josh for a week or two while he got his grade up. I went to the math teacher the next day and he totally agreed to help me out with reports, even phone calls if my son had done exceptionally well, or exceptionally not well. He also suggested he work with my son a bit more closely to see if he truly "got it" or if he was just being lazy.
My son ended up missing about 7 days of practices and NOT ONE, ZERO, ZIP, actual games. He was back on first base at the end of the following week. And he finished his sophomore year of high school with a solid C in math.
Was it difficult as a parent to follow through with that one? One of the hardest yet! Did he learn something? Yes, he did. Did I learn something? You bet. HE learned Mom and Dad's rules are there for a reason and while he may not like them, Mom and Dad were NOT going to blow off the rules, even for something as important as baseball. (See, we believed education was a bit more important than baseball, as much as we love it). And me? I learned there ARE rewards for being a "tough-guy" parent. For paying close attention to what my kid is up to, both at school and out. That rule-enforcement episode still crops up in conversation once in a while, and he'll still tell me he thought I was the meanest Mom in the world, BUT now that he's a parent, he understands a lot better why the rule was in place to begin with. Hearing that made it worth everything!