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The View from the Bleachers

I know you’ve heard a bit from us about the Adaptive Sports League that Nolan participated in this year… Okay maybe more than a bit, but come on—we’re proud parents. Heck, he even earned himself an athletic letter! Neither Kirk nor I ever managed that (or expected any offspring we sired would letter…) We’re parents—being proud of our kids is what we do.


Anyway, Kirk and I have definitely had some very different insights about the season… We experienced it differently, so that’s to be expected. While Kirk was hands-on with Nolan on the field during games and practices, I got to be a spectator and take in the whole scene…


While I, regrettably, only got to see parts of a few indoor baseball games, what I was able to see was amazing.


Obviously, watching an Adaptive Sports League game is nothing like watching a standard high school athletics event. Aside from the obvious differences among the athletes, the whole vibe of the experience is entirely different. I noticed things I would’ve never expected…


The first thing that caught my eye at the very first game was that the pitcher on the opposing team had his shorts on backwards. Was he capable of putting his shorts on without making that kind of mistake? Absolutely. Did anyone care that it had happened? No. When I was in high school, my own teammates would have given me endless grief and taunting over such a faux pas… In this setting? No big deal.


And that’s when I realized this was no ordinary after-school activity.


At one point, the catcher on one of the teams got excited and jumped up and down. It was an exciting moment, so I agree that some jumping up and down was called for (and why do we not let ourselves do that more?)


Our outfields also tend to be packed—we’re allowed 15 people on the field at a time, no one sits on the bench for long unless they want or need to. You came to play indoor baseball, and that’s what you’re going to do. It doesn’t matter who is better at what—you’re part of a team and everyone is 100% in.


Photo credit: Krista Gold


Another frequent occurrence on our own team happened between two of our outfielders. We’ve got one particular outfielder (we’ll call him Noah) who tends to get chatty. When there wasn’t much going on, he’d jabber to himself and anyone else who might have been listening—maybe to fill the awkward quite (I get it, Noah) or maybe it’s one of a billion other possible reasons. Another outfielder (we’ll call her Sophia) would get frustrated with the constant sound bombarding her from behind…

“Noah! Stop talking!”

“Sorry, Sophia.”

Thirty seconds later, Noah is occupied with another thought and it begins again…

“Noah! Be quite!”

“Okay, Sophia.”

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (And maybe escalate Sophia’s frustration level a little bit along the way…) And the whole thing just felt like the background soundtrack that carried the rhythm of the game.


But what I noticed most was the joy and positivity. There was joy among the players, coaches and spectators (whether they jumped up and down in excitement or not). When a play didn’t go as expected, no one got down on anyone else about it. There were no arguments with referees, disgruntled mumblings among players or disappointed expressions on the faces of staff and volunteers. The spectators yelled things like, “Good effort!” and “Nice job!” instead of letting out the groan of disappointment you might have otherwise expected.


But the parts of sports that I struggled with in high school (both in the two seasons my freshman year where I attempted competitive athletics and even in physical education classes) seemed to be completely missing from this atmosphere.


Relationships in high school can be complicated—whether they’re between friends, classmates, teammates or acquaintances… When I think back to my own high school experiences, I remember the social pecking order being stressful—and probably more so among the girls. It seemed there was always an alpha girl that others gravitated toward, and whatever opinions the alpha had seemed to be reflected by the rest of the group. If the alpha decided you weren’t good, you could expect to be ridiculed or even bullied… Admittedly this could have been specific to my school in the 90s, but something tells me it likely wasn’t.


And I think that’s why I was so impressed at how well these kids worked together. Sure, some of the students were clearly closer friends with some than with others, but for the most part they all seemed to support each other and lift each other up rather than tearing each other down. There was a wide variety of abilities and skill levels on the field, and I never once witnessed anything that would make me believe anyone felt as if they were better than anyone else.


Of course, I was just sitting in the stands on the other side of the gym… So I know I didn’t see everything. But I do like to think that the story Kirk told me from a practice early in the soccer season set the tone… At one point, Nolan was paired with a teammate who is athletically talented. She is easily one of the most skilled athletes on the field. But she was paired with Nolan, who needed more direct support than anyone else on the team. Instead of rolling her eyes or complaining, she jumped right in to kick the ball back and forth with him so that they could both get warmed up and work on some skills together.


But my absolute favorite part (and my bias is going to show here) was watching my boys spending time together. Kirk got to share something he loves with his favorite teenager, and Nolan got to spend time with Dad doing a structured activity that he enjoyed. While Kirk’s face didn’t always seem relaxed (okay fair—Kirk’s face RARELY looks relaxed), I saw Nolan give Kirk a lot of affection while they were on the field and the bench together. My favorite of those moments I caught on video (at least part of it), and I hope you love it as much as I do.


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