Where Do We Go From Here?

Tuesday night was Sarah Kate’s last softball game of the fall season.

She batted three times, grounding out all three, but advanced the first base runner to third on two of them (there was no one on base the third time because the hitter she advanced the other two times hit a home run – Go, Ellie!). She played catcher and came reasonably close to grabbing a pop fly hit foul – just so you know, that pretty much never happens in 8U.

Two different parents inquired of me last night about Sarah Kate’s prospects for moving up in the spring. Age-wise, she should, as she was given a minor pass last spring because of her birthday being just a few days before the cutoff (and, of course, because of the cerebral palsy). The new league president mentioned to Mr. Andi a couple of weeks ago that if she wanted to play down one more year, he was confident that the board would allow it. We watched the 10U girls play a little this fall, and it was ominous: Goodbye, coach pitch; Hello, stealing bases. Sarah Kate was a bit unnerved by it.

My Momma Bear instincts tell me that she should stay in 8U another season. She’s less likely to get hurt, and she’s more likely to be successful. She’s small, so she wouldn’t stand out (other than in the obvious way), and she’d have another season to learn the fundamentals and (potentially) improve her weaknesses (balance and speed). Mr. Andi agrees (at least, I assume he does based on his sweeping statement of “she’s nowhere near ready for 10U” that stands in stark contrast to my perpetual state of analysis paralysis). When asked for her opinion, Sarah Kate also expressed reservations about moving up. Another season of 8U should be a no-brainer.

But I’m beginning to believe that we’re wrong.

Not a single piece of evidence points toward moving to 10U. Even the simple statement that her fellow fourth graders will all be in 10U is a weak argument, since only the ones who’d never played before chose to remain in 8U this fall. Her peers from the spring all chose to move up early, presumably in preparation for the more competitive spring season, and she was fine with staying down in 8U.

But I’ve been reflecting on how Sarah Kate’s athletic career has played out so far. First, she wanted to join the swim team. I initially resisted, but overcame my fears to let her do it. She thrived. Then, she wanted to play softball, which I was certain was out of reach – not remotely like swim team, which I perceived to be much better suited to her abilities. She loved softball – much more so than swim team – and was actually pretty good at one crucial aspect of the game, batting.

In both instances, the possibility of Sarah Kate being able to participate in a meaningful manner seemed as unreachable as the moon. I did not see a path to success; I only saw the likelihood of failure. I was only convinced to move forward because of the combined efforts of a little girl who believed in herself and two outsiders (Cathy the swim coach and my friend Jeni the softball mom) who gave me a push.

Yet, 10U softball still seems as unreachable as the moon.

I am under no delusions that Sarah Kate might be as good in the new league as she was in the old one. It will be hard for her to play, and hard for us to watch. It will test our mettle. When all is said and done, it may be an unmitigated disaster.

But as I began crafting this post, I was reminded of a familiar quote from half a century ago that spoke, not of a proverbial moon shot, but a real one, in terms that are appropriate to our situation today:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon…and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. – John F. Kennedy

So I’m now leaning toward the moon shot that is 10U. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because it is in doing the hard things that we grow and learn. It is my hope that the reward will, once again, be worth the risk.

What do you think? Should 10U be Sarah Kate’s next step, or should she remain in the safety of 8U a little longer?

Now before you run off, go read this post over at Tri and True. Kim is a Marylander and an acquaintance of mine through running (and my friend Katie) and she published a piece today about our family. Reading about my family through someone else’s eyes was fascinating, because her view of us is completely unlike my view from the inside. I’ll have more to say about it in tomorrow’s Snippets.


  1. Charli says

    She should stay in 8U. So she’s on Josie’s team again :-) hehehe (Wow, as I’m typing this, I just realized I’m going to move her up, hmm).

    Not sure if I’ll coach again – omg that was sooo hard – nor if anyone would want me to – LOL – but would love the chance to play softball with Kat again !!

    That said -I’m nowhere near equipped to comment past that on whether or not she should go or stay.

    Happy Holidays- Hope to see ya’ll soon!

  2. says

    We have the ability, age wise, to move N up a level this coming baseball season. He’s on the cusp. He literally turns 7 15 days before the cutoff. That said, we’re keeping him down where he was last year. He’s advanced skills wise, but focus/socially he isn’t ready to play with 10 year olds yet, and moving up a level would mean that he would be playing with kids who could theoretically turn 10 during the season. There’s a huge disconnect between barely 7 and 10. It just wouldn’t be fair.

    Could he do it? Probably. But at what cost to his confidence and love for the game? That’s where I landed with him. I’d rather him be a big fish in a little pond for one more year, to solidify the skill set and allow him to gain the confidence he needs to move up. He doesn’t seem to care, but he can be a bit socially oblivious.

    I think, if SK were my kid, her own uneasiness about moving up would sway me. N’s uneasiness wouldn’t, because he’s a nervous kid in general. But everything you write about SK tells me she’s a confident, almost fearless, girl. So I think I’d follow her lead on what to do. If she wants to move up, go with it. If she’s more comfortable staying down one more season, I’d go with that.

  3. says

    Oh! I forgot to add. If you want to move her up, and maybe to assuage her uneasiness, she could take some private lessons in the off season? Hitting, fielding, etc…? Might be a good compromise. We’re going to get N some batting lessons.

  4. says

    I had to really think about this one. The adult in me says to move her up. The former kid in me is split right down the middle. Sit down with SK and have an honest conversation with her with the pros and cons from your point of view and ask her the pros and cons from hers. My gut is saying this should be a “Team Sligh” decision.

  5. Jennifer says

    Is this is a decision you have to make right now? I think I’d watch and wait and watch. Maybe invest in some private lessons, maybe get involved in another sport. See how she grows both physically and mentally, then make a decision. But then again, I’m a really good procrasinator. :)


  6. says

    After having the pleasure to spend an extended amount of time with SK I think the answer lies within her. She was strong enough to know she could swim and play softball. I think she is strong and determined to know if she can handle 10U. Listen to what she has to say. I know I’m not a parent but I know the answer is always clearer when people listen and let me talk through it. I think the right answer will present itself, if you ask and listen to her. Just my 2 cents!

  7. Marie says

    I’d lean toward keeping her in 8U. She would have another year to develop her skills, and being a little older would give her the feeling of being the big sister of the group and the youngers would look up to her which would boost her confidence. It’s not holding her back, it’s giving her another year to grow.