Apparently, not all coaches agree.
When I asked the assistant coach about it, he became irate, telling me the kids needed to "pay their dues" before they got a chance to play in the infield. He also told me it was because of parents like me that he hates coaching.
Personally, I think it's because he hates children that he hates coaching.
Because the absurdity of his "pay their dues" statement is so patent, I can only think he intensely dislikes the kids he's supposed to be nurturing.
"Paying your dues" is an expression from the business world, the working world, the professional world--the ADULT world. It has nothing to do with children. Most of the kids in a league for 9 and 10-year-olds will never play beyond Little League; in fact, many of them won't even graduate to the league for 11 and 12-year-olds. They'll lose interest, move on to other sports, or simply be unable to keep up with the competition at the older levels. I played in recreational leagues until I was fifteen, which was pretty good--but then, I was pretty good. I had some friends who played on the high school team. I knew no one who played professionally. The odds against that are so steep--tens of millions of Little Leaguers, only a few thousand players in the majors--it's not even worth thinking about.
Little League is--or should be--about having fun, developing fundamental skills, getting kids to love and respect the game, learning teamwork, and all those things. It should not be about preparing players for professional careers. If a kid whose playing career is likely to last no more than two or three years has to "pay his dues" before getting his shot, when is he ever going to get that shot? How, for that matter, is he ever going to develop the skills he'd need in order to get it?
I wish I'd been able to say all these things to my son's coach. The situation being what it was, I did little more than sputter incoherently when he dropped his "pay their dues" bombshell on me. But I do believe it's because of people like him that so many kids find youth sports a source of anxiety and an occasion for tears, rather than a source of joy and an occasion for achievement.
But okay, this blog isn't about youth sports. It's mostly about writing. So what does this have to do with that?
I do believe writers have to pay their dues. Professional writers, that is. Many of us labor in obscurity for years before we make it big; most of us never make it big at all. And if we do make it big, it's because we worked our butts off, honed our craft, developed our abilities as self-promoters, cultivated a fan base, and so on and so forth. You think John Green came out of nowhere? You think Suzanne Collins did? You think even J. K. Rowling did? Maybe she didn't do a ton of writing before she penned her breakthrough novel, but she did a ton of living, and that's just as good, probably even better.
Rowling paid her dues.
As writers, we all need to pay our dues. We shouldn't expect overnight success. We need to be tough and prepared for disappointment, even for failure. We need to recognize that not all of us will make it to the Show.
But that's us. We're adults. We're professionals. We shouldn't let our own difficulties shape how we treat our kids.
Let's pay our dues. But let's let our kids play the game.