Buzby: No crying in baseball?

jonbuzby@hotmail.comNovember 16, 2013 

It was perhaps actor Tom Hanks who said it most memorably during a scene in "A League of Their Own": There's no crying in baseball.

But there is. And if you've ever coached young kids, you know that there's crying in just about all youth sports at one point or another.

And unlike the big-leaguers who shed a tear here and there -- usually while being doused by celebratory champagne -- the kids crying on the fields and in the gyms usually aren't crying over a big win.

So why are there tears, no matter how big or little? That's the big question.

I once had a 5-year-old player who cried in the first inning when he took the field no matter what position he played. It wasn't after making an error. It started as soon as he took his place in "ready position." Not alligator tears, but ones big enough they forced sniffles. And not just in the first game of the season.

He was ready to play and felt fine. He just felt the need to cry. Why, you ask? I had no idea. He was a decent player. He usually made the play if the ball came to him. And he was well liked by his teammates. It was just something about that first inning.

I've seen other kids cry through the years for many reasons, some made sense and some didn't. But as a coach, you have to try and figure it out. Even if it's just a one-time occurrence.

Start by asking the child. And remember, no matter how silly you think the reason is that he's crying, it's clearly not silly to him.

"I miss my mommy when I'm out here" sounds corny to us, but maybe not to a 5-year-old. Same with, "I'm scared."

It could be more serious, like the child finding out on the way to the game his parents are separating (true story). Or, that earlier in the day, her mom was arrested for selling drugs (another true story).

It could also be an easy fix: "I have to pee."

A second way to find out is to talk to the parents. They might provide the answer, or at least some insight: "He had a bad day at school." "She is here playing softball instead of at a birthday party with the rest of her friends."

The most important thing you can do as a coach is try to find out and then help if you can. And sometimes there's just nothing you can do about it, like me with that 5-year-old.

Whatever happened with him? One of the highlights of my coaching career was proudly watching him take the field at the start of a game about halfway through the season, turn to his mom smiling, and wave. No tears. Ever again.

Why all of a sudden on that particular day did he not feel the need to cry? I still don't know. And, quite frankly, don't care. It was a great moment.

Reach columnist Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @youthsportsbuzz on Twitter.

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