You might not have thought much about it when you saw the sign-up sheet at your kid’s school or the local community center, but as spring rolls around it hits you: tee ball is a big commitment, not just for your kid but for the whole family. If this is your family’s first time playing tee ball, you might not know what to expect or how to behave, but don’t worry. Most of the other parents will be first-timers too, and the ones who aren’t will be happy to show you the ropes. Just to put your mind at ease, here are some tips to know about tee ball.
1. Decide what you want to get out of the experience. Some tee ball parents have little athletes who have loved sports since they were in diapers, but many other kids never even thought about sports before a grownup clapped a baseball hat on them and sent them out to the field. For the youngest athletes, learning on the field isn’t just about baseball skills. Tee ball can be great practice at following rules, paying attention, being a good teammate to other kids, or even just being far away from mom and dad for a little while. Measure your child’s progress based on where they started before the season, not by comparing them to other kids.
2. Remember this isn’t the Major League. Everybody knows that kind of sports parent. The one everyone dreads sitting next to in the stands. The one who yells, not encouragement, but to intimidate, to vent anger, to try and live vicariously through a child that, let’s be honest, might just be sitting in the outfield playing in the dirt. Remind yourself that it’s just a game, nobody’s scouting for the Yankees, and the first item on the to-do list is to have fun.
3. Cheer the little wins. Not every tee ball league keeps score, and for the leagues that do, winning is often more about random chance than the still-developing skills of the tiny athletes out there. Celebrate not just your child’s successes but every kid’s. A powerful swing that doesn’t connect still shows a lot of effort. Remembering to run to first base instead of third means your kid is learning the fundamentals well enough to remember them in exciting moments.
4. Volunteer! Youth sports organizations always need parents to help by bringing snacks, loaning spare equipment (a few extra lawn chairs are always handy if your child’s field doesn’t have bleachers), carpooling, or pitching in at fundraisers. Volunteering is a great way to get to know the other parents and to stay on top of all the information you need to know about your child’s team. Don’t worry if you don’t have experience. Just like your kid, having a great attitude and a willingness to listen go far.
5. Know your limitations, and your kid’s. Little kids tire out easy. Big grownups have busy days, with jobs and errands to run. If the first league you try has games that are too long for your little one’s stamina, too many practices, too much travel, don’t scrap the whole idea of baseball, just see if you can try things a different way. Maybe your current team has too big of an age range, so little kids are getting steamrollered by big ones. On the other hand, maybe your league is so strict about age divisions that kids are getting sorted onto teams based on their birthday rather than their developmental ability. Remember, very young kids don’t learn all their skills in the same order. Some grow physically first, some grow mentally first, and kids have the most fun when they’re playing with other kids at the same developmental level as them. If something isn’t working right now, that doesn’t mean it never will. Remember, try, try again!