Thursday, July 19, 2007

What do we do now?

We officially wrap up our softball season tonight with our season-ending pizza party. We will hand out certificates and medals and a few goodies from the university at which I work. … It’s never too early to start recruiting.

Our season ended last week amidst controversy. The tournament, originally scheduled as a double-elimination tournament, dropped to single elimination after thunderstorms disrupted things for two nights. However, certain people made a stink and needless to say, the girls in the various leagues got a good taste of poor sportsmanship from their parents who taught them how to act like complete idiots within the confines of a public forum.

That’s a whole other soap box that I want dive into right now, but you should realize that once the police get involved, things have gone too far.

Our girls, who managed only four wins during the regular season, somehow won two of our three tournament games, losing the championship by only one run. We were quite proud of them. They really improved throughout the year.

I must admit that I am kind of sad to see them go. Not because of the softball, but because some of them need something positive in their life. They have problems that could be solved or at least dealt with properly if they had the right role models and support structure in place. But our pathetic social norms don't give them the opportunities they need to succeed.

One of our girls, Pinky, has a problem with ADD. I generally don’t buy into the ADD myth. I think it is an excuse and copout for parents who don’t want to deal with their children. Occasionally, however, you will find a child with a legitimate problem. This was the case with Pinky. You could see her fight it and knew that there were other forces at work when she was off her medication.

At our final game, this girl’s mother and older brother were there. I think she wants nothing more in this world than to impress her brother. She has said several things throughout the course of the season that makes me think this. It’s obvious that these children come from broken homes and when he is around, she wants him to accept her and be impressed by what she has accomplished.

That did not help the situation.

Each time Pinky stepped into bat, you could tell she was struggling with the voices in her head. The ADD was taking control. Her brother was telling her that she had to hit the ball. The opposing players were yelling at her unmercifully, trying to get her to swing at bad pitches … and she obliged. She tried not to. You could see her try to hold her bat, but when everyone yelled “swing” she would.

It became too much to handle in her final at bat. Pinky swung at a bad pitch and then turned, rubbing her forehead with a pained look on her face.

“Are you alright?” I asked her. She assured me that she was so I barked a few words of encouragement to her, and then she stepped back in. Another bad pitch … another bad swing … and she stepped out again.

It was too much.

“Are you OK?” I asked again.

Pinky burst into tears.

I knelt beside her as she cried. The game was waiting for her and all the parents and players were staring. Fortunately the umpire gave me a little extra time. I tried to comfort her, but what can you say.

“I’m trying …” she sobbed … “but … everybody … is … yelling at me … and I … just can’t stop…”

This little, 8-year-old girl was battling not only the demons of ADD, but personal demons as well. What happens to kids like her? What role do we play in her development? Where does she go from here?

I asked someone who has been coaching kids longer than I have what she does in situations like this. Her reply was that all you can do is pray for them, support them and be a good role model for them when you are around them. She coaches basketball and said there have been times when she has kept kids with her between tournament games because she knew if they went with their parents, all they would hear was griping and yelling about how bad they played or what they need to do differently.

What are we teaching these kids? Why are parents so stupid? We treat them like trash then wonder why they are trash when they grow up.

Another girl on our team is a brilliant child. She is very smart and analyzes everything. She makes contingency plans for how we should handle on-field situations should they arise. She is a cute kid with a bright smile. But she comes from a broken family and she is starved for affirmation from a strong male role model.

I don’t know her family and don’t know the dynamics of her situation. But I do know that she craves positive attention from me or the other coach. When standing in a group talking, she will always stand as closely as she can to one of us and just wait for us to put our hand on her shoulder or pat her on the back and tell her she is doing a good job. She’ll hang around after the game and help us clean up just to hear us say, “Thank you.”

She has so much going for her but you wonder if she will throw it all away by getting mixed up with the wrong people and doing things she shouldn’t do just to feel accepted by some boy.

What’s going to happen to her? Will she become a productive member of society or just another statistic?

I asked my friend if we were allowed to shoot the parents.

… she didn’t answer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Keeping up with cable TV

My back hurts.

It’s not a bad hurt, just kind of a dull ache that will eventually stretch itself out. It’s the kind of hurt that comes along after a few hours of strenuous exercise in a manner of which one is not accustomed.

In other words, I had an eventful weekend.

You see, the wife and child were out of town this weekend and I needed something to occupy my time. A lot of guys with a free weekend will stock up on their beverage of choice and call all their buddies. Not me! No, sir! First of all I’m not an overly social animal, so I don’t have a lot of buddies that I would openly invite to my house. Secondly, I would rather do something moderately constructive or destructive as the case may be. So when I have a free weekend, I don’t take out the beverages, I take out the carpet.

And now my back hurts.

The ambitious idea behind the project was spawned by any number of home improvement shows which fill the airwaves on cable television. In every show you always hear the “home improvers” talk about putting in hardwood floors which increase the sales value of the house. Therefore, it stands to reason, that if my house has hardwood floors, its value will rise as well. I figured that out all by myself.

My house was built in the 1950s when ever structure was pier and beam and the only decent flooring material was wood. However, over the years, everybody wanted to cover up the wood with carpet. The carpet that was in my house was not original by any means, but I’m betting it had been there for a good 20 years. Some brilliant architect had even decided that putting ceramic tile on top of the wood in the entry way was a good idea.

Do you have any idea how much sand paper it takes to grind your way through a quarter-inch tile? … Me either. I would suggest taking the tile up before you start sanding. However, working your way through the adhesive material underneath the tile is quite a taxing experience. My wood in that area is still a little green, but I'm hoping a nice, dark stain will hide the other discoloration.

Needless to say, it took a day or so to prep the floor for sanding. I had to remove the carpet and padding, take up all the carpet tack strips lining the edges of the rooms, then remove all the staples that were used to hold the padding in place. I had to take out the tile and chisel out as much of the underlying material as I could without damaging the wood. I had roughly 550 square feet to cover once the floor sander was ready to go. I started sanding at about 9 o’clock in the morning and didn’t finish until around 3 p.m. And God forbid that any type of power equipment be built to fit people that are more than 6 feet tall. Spending six hours in a slight stoop is not easy.

Thus … my back hurts. But I now have really cool hardwood floors. I just need to find the time to stain and polyurethane them. That ought to kill a few more brain cells.