Baseball: A soul-crushing sport?

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What was once regarded as “America’s past-time” has turned into a soul-crushing sport for today’s boys.

Maybe it was “America’s past-time” decades ago when school-aged boys would gather in an empty field, pick teams and just play baseball much like the hit movie “The Sandlot.” What I wouldn’t give for my own 9-year-old to have that type of baseball experience.

But like most other sports these days, it’s not about just playing the game, it’s all about winning 100 percent of the time and that mindset tends to fall on the coaches.

And while I agree that winning is important – especially at the high school, college, minor league and major league levels – is it really that important when the kids are 9 years old and playing recreational baseball?

The Lorain County Hot Stove League my 9-year-old plays for is a “participation league.” And it’s “parent league” – The Ohio Hot Stove Baseball League encourages “players of all abilities.” Hot Stove was first conceived by sports editor Karl Artman, of Selma, Ala. in the early 1930s. His original idea was to form fun clubs where the members could swap ideas and discuss organized baseball in all its phases. Unfortunately, Artman passed away before his ideas had a chance to develop.

I’m not sure when the detail about “having fun” vanished, but seeing young boys with near tears in their eyes and disappointed faces in the dugout while they sit the bench isn’t my idea of fun. Hearing the young boys who don’t play an entire game like their peers beg and plead with their coach to play the field, only to be told “Maybe later” or “We’ll see” isn’t part of the league’s mission statement either.

The concept of my son’s league is to play on a rotation basis. Meaning, you rotate players in and out of play time. That way, in my opinion, when a boy has to sit the bench, he knows it’s only for an inning or two … not four consecutive innings which to a 9-year-old is a lifetime. And, if the coach adheres to the “rotation” rule, sitting the bench would not be seen as a punishment. A

s if sitting the bench isn’t hard enough, the seemingly better players on the team begin to notice their “spot” on the team and become entitled and perceive themselves as God’s gift to baseball.

How are baseball parents supposed to explain to their average baseball player son why he didn’t get to play more than two innings when other players exuding unsportsmanlike attitudes play inning after inning?

What is that teaching our sons? That you can have a fit and then instead of sitting the bench and taking a “time out” you are “rewarded” by being allowed to play the field while the average player would give anything to see the baseball diamond?

How does an adult morally crush a kid’s spirit?

I hate seeing kids on the outside looking in. It drains their psyche whether they can see it or not. They are now “damaged” goods in their own heads while the “chosen ones” continue to act high and mighty.

Today’s youth take it all in. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they understand what is happening in the world around them. Don’t think for a second they are oblivious. Being a parent of a child athlete is tough.

We encourage our children to “go out for the team” and cringe when they only “suit up” and spend most of their time in the dugout.

My dad coached basketball for 25 years. He allowed every player “play time.” And, when his team was ahead, instead of running up the score, he allowed for his “second string” to hit the court. It was his way of allowing them to show him what they had learned at practice.

Sports isn’t like that anymore.

Elementary-aged boys are still trying to figure out where they belong, but when coaches, who should otherwise be role models, cater to only a select few, what is that accomplishing?

Nothing. It accomplishes nothing except creating a mindset that that player is unworthy. And parents are left picking up the pieces of their crushed souls.


Melissa Linebrink is an award-winning blogger from Ohio. Follow her on Facebook at! 




Winning for Kayden

“All Day.

Every Day.

No Sleep.


– Kayden D. Williams

I love basketball.

Not college basketball or pro-basketball.

High school basketball.

There is something about the passion the players exude on the court.

The sound of basketball shoes squeaking on the court.

The sound of the basketball hitting the backboard before swishing through the white net.

But on Saturday night, in Elyria, Ohio, there was something more.

Something almost … magical.

That night, two rivals came together to honor one family whose connection to both communities was as strong as the bond shared between siblings.

It was one of love and hate.

The love was for Kayden Williams, and his family.

The hate, well it wasn’t really hate. It was more of a passion burning inside both teams to get the “W” for Kayden.

You see, he and his older brother, KJ, were Wildcats.

His sisters – Pioneers.

Kayden was a Wildcat when he passed away on Dec. 27 from injuries sustained in a single motor vehicle accident on a country road.  KJ graduated from Keystone several years ago.

The Williams family now has two daughters left in high school – and they are both Pioneers through and through.

But on Saturday night, both teams came together to honor Kayden and what he stood for – high school sports – leaving it all on the field/court – and an unwavering dedication to both.

As the game started, the Elyria varsity team ran onto the court wearing a T-shirt remembering Kayden. Moments later, the Keystone varsity basketball team did the same. For several minutes, the two teams just seemed to blend together.

The rivalry paused as the crowd gave a moment of silence for Kayden.

Then, it was game time.

To say both teams gave it 110 percent is an understatement.

It’s as if Kayden was fueling both teams on the court.

But, in the last seconds, it was Brody Kuhl’s three-point shot that gave Keystone the edge they needed to win.

And then, the unthinkable happened. Keystone fans ran onto the court before the game officially ended.

A technical foul was called on Keystone for charging the floor.

Yet, a small miracle happened at the same time. Just as Keystone was charged with a technical foul, the referee determined that Brody had been fouled during his three-point shot.

He was going to the free-throw line.

And he scored.

Elyria also had the opportunity to score due to Keystone’s technical foul, but in the end, the player only made one shot.

The night belonged to Keystone.

It also belonged to the Williams family.

To see Kayden’s brother, KJ jump up and down, cheering for his alma mater was a sight I will never forget.

To watch players run over to the Williams family after the game ended, embracing parents, Sarah and Keenan – I was filled with such pride to be a Keystone Wildcat.

Then, finally to witness Coach Jeff Holzhauer walk over to KJ, saying, “I told ya didn’t I?”

It wasn’t just a win for Keystone Saturday night.

It was a win for the Williams family because I am pretty sure Kayden was whooping and hollering from the heavens just as his family was down on Earth.

Somehow, I think it was his way of letting his family know that he was just fine.

And that in time, they will be too.



Hey you there: Are you stressed?

My mom broke the unspoken rule of motherhood the other day.

She asked me if I was stressed.

I lied and told her everything was fine.

She didn’t need to know that I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone screaming, “MOOOOMMMM!!!” Most summer days, I don’t shower until 10 p.m. My husband comes home to a ragged, dark-circles-under-eyes, exhausted as hell wife with her dirty hair in a clip, pulling her bangs away from her face. The days I do appear showered and put together, he wants to know where we are going that night.

She doesn’t need to know that every day my kids fight, whine and argue like they are trying to set a world record for “Aggravating Mom the Most.”

She doesn’t need to know that me working from home when my kids are home is getting increasingly more difficult as my kids age. I thought it would be easier, but it’s because my children no longer take naps. Back, long, long ago, I had two to three hours of peace and quiet during the day. That was MY time. A time when if I needed to nap, I could grab 20 minutes and feel rested. If I needed to work, I could. Now, my kids surround me like a bee to a flower. Buzzing, buzzing … all the time.

She doesn’t need to know that rather than be a mom to my 14-year-old son, I am now his personal taxi service for all high school sporting events. Who has practice at 5 p.m. on the weekdays? Answer … my son.

She wanted to know what she could do help ease my stress. She let me know that she is there for me if I needed to talk. I actually told her I have no time to talk – that is what talk-to-texting is for where I don’t need to have a conversation for 20 minutes, explaining why I am stressed.

Besides, no one cares!

A day later, I confessed I was stressed. Who isn’t?

Moms are all in the same boat – making our way through muddied waters called Motherhood. Day in and day out, we experience the same problems. And it doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, working-mom or whatever-type-of mom.

Being a mom is stressful enough without adding all the extras – like laundry, cleaning, cooking, dishes and sleeping (if we are lucky).

To know that we are responsible for our children is an insane amount of stress – especially if we don’t want our kids turning into Neanderhtals later in life.

We have to dole out the chores, the punishments, the rewards, the explanations. We have to set good examples.

We have to make sure they are associating themselves with the right kind of people.

We have to make sure they receive proper nutrition and the right amount of sleep.

We have to control how much screen time they have on a daily basis.

The list is endless.

And it’s not just moms … this goes for dads too. Parenthood is the hardest job I have ever had in my life. Some days, I yearn for my college days where the only person who I was in charge of was me. I’d give anything to pull an all-nighter, cramming for an exam. I’d give anything to have two days to write a 10-page-double-spaced paper on revolution. I’d give anything to live in dorm with 200 other people.

This isn’t saying I don’t wish I was 19 years old again. Because, I don’t. I don’t miss my teens, 20s or what’s left of my 30s (which is six months). Those years are who made me the crazy, loud, fun-loving, honest, hard-working mom I am today.

So, yes, I will continue to pretend everything is fine; and that I am not stressed because no one wants to be weighed down by my problems because we all have them – it’s just how we deal with them that makes us … us.

Spring – the time of non-stop sports and crappy meals

I love, love spring.

But it isn’t for the reasons you think.

Plus, that first phrase is laced with sarcasm.

I hate the spring because it’s the one season of the year when I not only don’t really see my husband, but I rarely see my kids either.

Actually, no, that’s not true either.

I do see my kids – from afar as they kick around a soccer ball, catch baseballs or run the 400-meter relay in track meets.

Spring is the one season where my three kids have a sporting event EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. OF. THE. WEEK.

And we only have three kids in sports. My daughter isn’t even in dance or gymnastics. It’s a good thing too because I have no idea what day we’d cram that into our schedule.

Spring is also the time of the year when the dinners I prepare are far worse than the already subpar meals I cook on a daily basis. It’s pretty much grab-and-go. We won’t have a family meal until mid-June.

The other night we had chicken patty sandwiches, with a few side dishes that I don’t recall. Maybe pickle slices?

Last night, it was chicken in a crockpot. (I feel that when I make a crockpot meal that that is putting forth a lot of effort to feed my kiddos. But, in reality, it was just chicken that cooked all day rather than it cooking in a pan, waiting to be burnt. Plus, microwavable rice! SCORE!)

Tonight, it was more chicken – baked, not fried – with fries and a random southwest salad premade from Wally World. Earlier before THAT meal, my daughter ate four turkey/bacon pinwheels — also premade at Wally World.

My teenager eats two dinners. One after track and then another after soccer. I am going to need a third job to feed him when he enters high school.

Is there a day after Friday that I am not aware of? Is there an extra 24-hours in a week that is hidden away from moms like me as other parents watch and laugh at our poor ability to juggle careers, school, homework, dinner, practices, games and meets?

Think about it. It would make for excellent TV.

But then who would watch it because no one watches TV since no one is ever home anyways.

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Middle school sports – a tough road

“Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today …”

Today’s youth take it all in. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they understand what is happening in the world around them. Don’t think for a second they are oblivious.

And, for those of us who are parents to middle school-aged children, we have our work cut out for us.

We tell our children to be patient, kind and understanding. We tell them to do their best, never give up and shake off the negativity that comes over them like a dark cloud on a sunny day.

But what happens when what we tell them as parents isn’t what is presented to them in school or in extra-curricular activities?

Do we intervene and pull teachers/coaches aside, expressing our concerns in private? Do we demand that our children be “put on a team” because it’s “unfair” that he/she tried their best for two years in a row, but in the end, didn’t make the cut? Do we tell our children to speak up for themselves knowing they may not want to hear the truth?

Being a parent of a student athlete is tough.

We encourage our children to “go out for the team” and cringe if they are cut, knowing we will have to put a band-aid on their emotions. But, what if they aren’t cut, but instead make the team to only “suit up” and never play?

Which is worse?

At the middle school level, it’s the experience of being on a team that is the life lesson. No one cares how many wins or loses a team had – because no one is being scouted or recruited by colleges or pro-sports teams.

My dad coached basketball for 25 years. He allowed every player “play time.” And, when his team was ahead, instead of running up the score, he allowed for his “second string” to hit the court. It was his way of allowing them to show him what they had learned at practice.

It isn’t like that anymore.

Middle school students are still trying to figure out where they belong, but when coaches, who should otherwise be role models, cater to only a select few, what is that accomplishing?

Nothing. It accomplishes nothing except creating a mindset that that player is unworthy.

And those select few players will never forget that feeling. And parents are left picking up the pieces.




Stage right, stage left … GET OFF THE STAGE

I was maybe 8 years old.

There I sat in a metal folding chair with my mom, waiting for my name to be called. Prior to my name being called, I was shuffled into a room where I was “taught” the nursery-rhyme-turned-into-a-song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

It was my audition song and I was ready to rock that shit out.

Who in the WORLD could possibly screw up the refrain to THAT song?

ME. Me. Me. Me.

POOF, there went my dream of starring in the school production of “Princess and the Pea.” All because I could not remember the words to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

I could blame my parents, but no, it wasn’t their fault. It was all mine.

Let’s flash-forward to junior high. I had high hopes of landing a solo gig for our spring choir show. I loved being on stage. Lord knows I have the voice for it – I don’t even need a microphone – I am THAT loud. I commanded the audience.

So, in an effort to land that solo, I had to prove myself worthy. What better song to sing than Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” from the hit movie, and my favorite, “Beaches.” But then, I opened my mouth. I remember clear as day the facial expression coming over my choir director’s face. Poor Mr. Denison. What was he going to tell my father? (Remember ya’ll, my dad taught at the same junior high I attended … he SAW Mr. Denison on a daily basis. OH THE HORROR!)

Back to the chorus for this non song-bird. No hard feelings, right, Melissa?


They say if you fail, try and try again. I am pretty sure that ship has sailed far, far away.

Screw singing.

I found a new passion in life … DANCING.

But this isn’t about dancing … no, this column is about dealing with the torture of simply TRYING OUT FOR EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIESS.

Right now, my oldest is trying out for the middle school basketball team. I understand the feeling of defeat. I can honestly say I have been there and done that … but he has never been in my shoes before. He has always been the BEST at everything. Soccer – nailed it. Goalie in soccer – he is a force to be reckoned with. Academics – BOOM, this kid has both mad math and English/reading skills.

But now, we are in unchartered waters. Now, he is one of 20-something boys vying for a spot on the middle school boys basketball team. There are only 13 spots on the team. Only 13 uniforms will be handed out in the upcoming week. Only 13 boys will make THE team.

I know as parents we have to be there for our kids … for the good, the bad and everything in between … because right now, we have to be the wind beneath their wings.


About the author:

Melissa Linebrink is a columnist for “The Mommy Wars” which appears in The Chronicle-Telegram.

















Helicopter parents are devils in disguise

They’re everywhere you look.

School dances, wearing khaki pants with a plain black or white shirt, tucked into the waistband with a belt circa 1985. Often times, they are huddled in a corner, never taking their eyes off the dance floor. They call themselves “monitors.” They are lying to everyone they know, including themselves.

These people, often mothers, have even infiltrated themselves into schools. Volunteering for every single function, even when there isn’t a function, they are volunteering for one. They make them up. The biggest one is called the “room parent” and she knows her job is one so many others are dying to have. She is in charge of roping the other parents into donating cookies, punch and plates for every single holiday party. She is the head bitch; and she will not go down without a fight. No one is taking her place.

At sporting events, these same people sit on the sidelines, taunting children from the opposing team – “Don’t you push my son!” or “Hey, REF, that’s a foul! Come on!” Even worse are the ones who look you in the eye, across the imaginary “team divider line” on the sidelines and give you the look of death while whispering under their breath, “ASSHOLE!”

Helicopter parents are ruining our society. And, for those of us who aren’t helicopter parents, we are being made to feel guilty that we don’t want to spend every fucking second with our kids.

My God, I gave birth to three kids (including a set of twins). I stayed home with them from the moment they popped out until the moment the yellow chariot arrived to take them away from me for a blissful eight hours. The LAST thing I want to do is see them at school. And, they don’t NEED to see me at school, floating around like a Zoloft-induced Monarch butterfly, smiling everywhere I go as if I was meant to belong there from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

I have my own life.

I enjoy grocery shopping at 1 p.m. without three little ones grabbing my shirt, pants and screaming about every single food item they think they want but will never eat.

I enjoy eating a meal in peace where I am not being torn in three directions – “Cut this please!” “Milk!” “I don’t like this, what else is there?”

Silence is fucking golden.

So, to you helicopter parents I say this … One day, your kids will get out from under your crazy-ass wing because they will seek independence. You cannot follow your children everywhere they go. You cannot be there to help them out of every problem, trauma or disaster. They will need to cope without you being there 24/7/365.

And stop, just stop making us parents who enjoy seeing our kids run off the bus to tell us about their day with smiles on their faces so damn guilty for not being there all the time.