**This column also appeared in the Argus Leader on May 31, 2016.
Mom & Dad,
I am really excited for summer and the chance to be with all my friends. I’m looking forward to long days spent at the ballpark and on practice fields. I will be learning new things and making new friends. I hope that this is a fun experience, and I also hope you are proud of me for getting out there and trying.
Please remember that when I’m on the field or in the dugout, the experience is for me and about me. Also please remember that I am going to make mistakes; it is how I learn. I’m trying hard to do all the things I’ve been taught, but I’m still pretty new to the game. When I mess up, trust me, I already know what I did. Yelling about it isn’t going to help. If I want to talk about the mistakes, I will bring it up later. Or just trust that my coach and I have figured out what I need to do to improve.
I hope you see that I am trying to learn the rules of the game, figure out my position and listen to my coach and the officials. When you come into the picture with constant questioning about playing time, extra training, schemes and practice, it is overwhelming to me. It is really awkward when you are continually yelling from the stands about those things. I’m working as hard as I can to learn to be a good teammate and show respect to those around me. It really helps if you show that same respect to my coach and my teammates.
I also hope you see that I am happy and having fun. The finer points of performance are not my focus. I’m working together with my friends so we can play our very best. I’m not worried about outperforming my teammates, landing a spot on an elite team in high school, or getting a college scholarship. I just want to play with my friends and have fun.
One of the things you tell me is that it doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. Help me believe you. I want you to be excited about how I play and contribute to my team, not just be proud of the final score. I love to make a big play too, but as I’m learning the game, I need to know you enjoy watching me no matter what happens.
There will be great days, and there will be rough days. That is sports, and that is life. Please don’t critique my game, criticize my coach’s decisions, or continually point out the differences in playing time between me and my teammates. I would love it if you helped me to set some goals, and then helped me to achieve them. It would be even better if we could spend some time together working toward those goals. I know that now and forever, you will be my biggest fans.
I never say thank you enough, but I really do appreciate the time and energy you devote to me. I will look back on these summer days as some of my favorites because I shared them with you and my friends. Thanks for all that you do to help me be my very best.