Category Archives: sports

When adults are the bad sports

DQ’s 2011 soccer team at the Honey tournament. For the record, this was one of the best teams she ever played on. 🙂

This article also appears in the Find It section of the Press Democrat on Fri, Nov 2.

In his early days of little kid soccer, 4-year-old Taz was a natural. He would pounce on that ball as soon as it hit the field, dribbling around the daisy pickers and cloud counters to score goal after goal. I was definitely a proud mama.

But once Taz moved up to the bigger leagues, the games got a bit rougher. The players knew what they were doing as they continuously nabbed the ball from Taz and scored on our team over and over. The coach on the sidelines was going crazy, practically jumping out of his skin as he yelled for the players to get in front of the ball or to just pass it to the one talented player on our team who was probably ready for pro-ball at 8 years old.

And what was I doing? I was on the sidelines, yelling like a banshee to my former soccer star, wondering what the heck was going on that caused him not to take that ball back and score like he used to.

“I want to quit,” the Taz finally told me.

“Why?” I asked him.

“Because soccer just isn’t fun anymore.”

He finally admitted to me that being yelled at by the coach, and then by me, embarrassed him and made him feel bad. It made me take a really good look at what I was doing.

Vintage Wine Country Mom kids, circa October 2008

I was yelling at an 8-year-old to score a goal – as if it mattered in the scheme of life. Wasn’t the point of him being on a soccer team to have fun and learn how to be part of a team? So why they heck was I yelling at him?

I took this conversation to heart, and I’m proud to say that I am proactively my kids’ biggest fan whenever I see them on the field. My job is to encourage and cheer them on when they are playing, and to practice with them when they have things to work on.

Of course, anyone who has their kids on a sports team knows the reality that many of the parents haven’t yet learned this lesson, and probably won’t. I have witnessed some things that make me ashamed for the kids on the field.

At Taz’s baseball games, parents have loudly badmouthed players as they stood at bat, heckling them as if they were at an MLB game instead of a Little League game. I’ve seen parents yelling at their own child from the sidelines for striking out or for missing a fly ball. At one particular baseball game, an umpire was repeatedly badmouthed by a group of parents in regards to how he was residing over the game. What these parents didn’t realize was that this umpire’s son was sitting there, hearing every single word these parents were saying about his father. He told me later that his father, a man who was volunteering his time to be a part of his son’s baseball experience, was on the verge of quitting because of instances like these.

Soccer isn’t immune either. In the past few weeks at DQ’s games, I’ve seen parents yelling at the referees, screaming at their own children, and insulting the players on the opposite team. At one particular game, I witnessed a coach receive a yellow card for repeatedly breaking the rules on where he could coach, consistently argue with the referee’s calls, and then spent 10 minutes belittling the umpire to the players after the game.

What is the purpose for putting our kids on sports teams? Is it to make star athletes of our children? Is it to teach them proper etiquette on and off the field? Is it to help them learn how to play by the rules, play well with others, and feel good about themselves?

Is poor sportsmanship and being a horrible example helping with any of these goals?

Our kids deserve better examples from the adults when they are on the field. They deserve to be encouraged and cheered on rather than yelled at by their parents. Those who are volunteering their time as coach, referee, umpire, or anything else deserve respect from everyone on the field – even if their decisions are disagreed upon. After all, it’s possible to disagree or question a call and still be respectful. Coaches should remember that their main purpose during the season is not to win the games, but lead the kids towards being better players both in skills and in their demeanor.

Most everything about children’s sports is awesome. From team building exercises to learning new skills, kids have a really valuable asset in sports they can use on and off the field. But when the purpose behind placing them on a team is forgotten, the access to positive life lessons is too. And that, to me, is a real tragedy.

Baseball reject to homerun king

This past February, the Taz tried out for the Little League Majors. He caught every ball, throwing it back with precision. And when he was up to bat, he nailed the heck out of each ball that came his way. Basically, he nailed it. And since he was already 11 and one of the biggest kids trying out, my only question wasn’t about whether he’d make Majors or not, but which coach was fighting over his massive skill for their team.

So imagine my surprise when one of the Minors coaches called me to let me know he was on their team.

The news was all bad. I hadn’t been prepared for this, and had been building up the Majors to Taz since he’d shown nervousness over joining the older league. So when I had to break it to him that he was staying on the younger team, he was totally crushed. Throwing salt in the wound was the fact that all his friends had moved up and were now needling him for being in the “baby league”. Even worse, some of the kids who made it through totally blew their tryouts.

I’m not going to lie. I was pissed. I was starting to feel like this particular Little League had some sort of vendetta against our family.

Last year they put us on a team that had no coach. None. Like, if you want your kid to play baseball, someone better step up to the plate. It meant that none of the coaches deemed our kids worthy enough for their team, so we were stuck on a team of leftovers. Thankfully it turned out better than we could have anticipated since a great coach stepped up and guided our boys to 4th place in the League.

But this year? My son had done excellent at tryouts, better than most of the kids there, and he was left behind yet again.

First day on the field, Taz was a full head taller than everyone on his team. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him, surrounded by 9 year olds who had just moved up from the Rookies.

“This is stupid,” he muttered. And his attitude followed him out on the field, affecting his performance completely. It had been my hope that at the very least, Taz could outshine all his teammates and show his coaches the mistake that had been made. But I had to eat a bit of crow as I watched the boys lap him on the baseball diamond, my own son lumbering behind them at a much slower pace.

Ah, running. So not the Taz’ strong suit. The kid can throw. He can pitch. He can catch. And he can hit the stuffing out of a baseball. But he cannot run fast, even if his life depends on it. Even though my ego was still sore from him not getting picked, I was starting to understand that there may have been a reason, and perhaps this was it.

The coaches worked closely with the kids, and soon Taz’ speed was picking up. He would never be as fast as the littler kids on his team, but he was moving with a bit more agility than the first practice. And something else was different this year too. In previous years, the kids were just plain mean. My sensitive boy couldn’t just let insults slide off, but would carry the weight of them on his shoulders. But being the older kid this year, the younger players looked up to him. He became the leader of the pack. And it was a major ego booster.

This last weekend he attended practice. And as they worked on batting, he nailed it and sent it flying over the fence. That one play had the whole team rooting for him, and Taz promised he would do it again at the game.

There were limited coaches at the game this last Tuesday, so the coach made Taz his base coach.

“If it looks good, send them,” the coach said. And I marveled at how the Taz straightened up with a bit of responsibility placed on his shoulders. He paid attention to the game, offering support and advice to the players at bat. In the dugout, he shared a game rule a new player didn’t know about yet. And when it was his turn at bat, he lined himself up at the plate and looked the pitcher dead in the eye. The first pitch was too low. The second, a strike.

“You’ve seen what it looks like,” his coach called out. “Swing when the monster in your belly tells you to.”

Taz took a few practice swings, and then toed the plate. The pitch was thrown and he swung easily at the ball. There was a very distinct crack of the bat, and ball went sailing. Taz didn’t even run right away, watching it as it sailed up into the air and then over the fence. And the whole crowd cheered as he made his way around the bases, a huge grin on his face. His team gave him high fives, patting him on the back. And Taz glowed in the glory.

And I’m guessing that it was no coincidence that we received a call this morning that the Taz was being drafted up to the Majors.

There’s mixed feelings with this one. We love our Minor team’s coaches and team. It’s been such a great experience for Taz to be someone looked up to rather than someone made fun of. And the Majors is a lot faster and more experienced than the Minor League. I told the person on the phone that we had to think about it and I’d let her know.

“I hate to put it this way,” she told me, “but no matter what, he’s going to have to trade teams. If Taz doesn’t go to the Majors, he’ll have to take the place of the kid who does move.”

So we’re now a part of the Majors.

Taz got one last stint with his Minor League team today at their annual bat-a-thon. He ended up hitting one against the fence, a couple pop flies, and two over the fence homeruns.

Not bad for a Minor League reject. Right?

2012 Baseball Registration

Here is a quick list of dates for registration for baseball. If your league is not here, it means I don’t have the information. So if you know something I don’t, be sure to leave it in the comments. Some leagues are also accepting online registration. Check with your league to find out if yours does. Many of the websites also have all the paperwork you need on their websites so that you can fill them out and have them ready, making sign-ups super fast.

Be prepared to bring your child’s birth certificate, 3 proofs of residency (utility bills, driver’s license, etc), and a check for payment (fees vary with each league).

All Santa Rosa Little Leagues

January 7, 8, 14, & 15, 9am to 3pm
T&B Sports on Steele Lane
Rincon Valley
Mark West
SR American


Santa Rosa Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken

Sign-ups unknown

All Petaluma Little Leagues

Wednesday, January 11th:  6:00pm – 9:00pm
Saturday, January 14th:      9:00am – 2:00pm
Wednesday, January 18th   6:00pm – 9:00pm
Petaluma Boys & Girls Club – 203 Maria Drive, Petaluma

Petaluma American
Petaluma National
Petaluma Valley

Healdsburg Little League

Saturday January 7, 11 AM – 4 PM at E&M Electric – 126 Mill Street, Healdsburg
Wednesday January 11th 4 pm – 6 pm at Foss Creek Community Center, Foss Creek School
(Or returning players can fax completed forms to 431-9277)

Rancho Cotate Little League

Open online registration

Rohnert Park Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth

Saturday January 7th 10:30-12pm
Thursday January 12th 6-7:30pm
Saturday January 21st 10:30-12pm
Thursday January 26th 6-7:30pm
Beyond The Bat (555 Rohnert Park Expwy, Suite D)

Sonoma Valley Little League
January 4th & 5th  6PM-8PM
January 11th & 12th  6PM-8PM
January 14th 11am-1pm
Round Table Pizza, 201 W. Napa St.

Valley of the Moon Little League

Registration unknown

Sonoma Valley Babe Ruth

Registration unknown

Windsor Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth

January 7, 10a-3p (register online first)
Windsor Library

Sebastopol Little League

Thursday, December 8 – 5:30-8:00pm
Saturday, December 10 – 9:00-1:00pm
Wednesday, January 4 – 5:30-8:00pm
Saturday, January 7 – 9:00-1:00pm
Analy High School Cafeteria

El Molino Little League
Thursday, Jan 12th 6pm – 8pm
Saturday, Jan 14th 10am – 2pm
Forestville Youth Park

Cloverdale Little League

Sunday Jan 8th, 12-2pm
Cloverdale High School

Ukiah Youth Baseball League

January 10th, 11th, 17th 6-8pm at Yokayo School

Best and worst end-of-year gifts

Kids are gearing up for the end of the year, eagerly anticipating the start of summer vacation. And if you’re like me, you’ve been racking your brain for what to give the people who have meant the most to your child throughout the school year. First on the list is their teacher. But on that same list are their daycare providers, bus driver, crossing guard, sports coach, librarian….

What do you give the people that have been shaping your child’s life all school year long?

1. A simple thank you note. The best way to say thank you is to, well, say thank you. A handwritten card by your child (and maybe a little note from you as well) can go a long way in letting your child’s teacher know they’re appreciated.

2. Make a Scrapbook. This is fantastic for a coach or a teacher. Each child takes a page with their photo on it, and then writes a favorite memory of the year or season on it.

3. Your time. At the end of the year, teachers, librarians, and daycare providers are busy taking down the room so that it’s ready to be prepped for the next year. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of work. And an offer to help out might be much appreciated.

4. A gift card. It sounds impersonal, but it’s the perfect way for the person you’re thanking to be able to get what they need or want. A nice dinner out, a day at the spa, coffee… And for teachers who are most likely using their own money in the classroom, a gift card to the local bookstore or school supply shop will be highly appreciated.

5. Gift basket of school supplies. Along with the mention above, teachers can never have too much help in stocking up their classroom. Pens, dry erase supplies, Kleenex, paper, scissors, tape refills, paper clips, staples…. The list goes on and on. This would be a fantastic gift from just your child, or even a whole classroom.

6. Photos. If you’ve been taking pictures all year long, burn them onto a CD and give them to your teacher or coach. You can also print them out and make a photo album or collage. You can include them on a digital frame. Or you can create a book from them using the programs with Snapfish, Shutterfly, or other programs that allows you to bind them in a hardcover book. You can even create a calendar for the following year so that when your teacher has a new class, she’ll also have memories to share of her old class.

7. Growing a thank you. A potted plant can last long past the summertime. And it doesn’t just have to be flowers. It can be a start for a tomato plant, some fresh herbs, or even some seeds so that your child’s teacher or bus driver can plant their own garden. Even a gift card to the local Seed Bank can be a wonderful gift.

8. Movie Night In. Tie a ribbon around a package of microwave popcorn, a box of candy, and a gift card to the movie store. To make it extra fun, put it all in a pail with a couple glass bottles of soda. Who wouldn’t enjoy an excuse to stay in?

9. Recipe Book. Have each child in the class write out their favorite recipe on an index card and then tie it with a ribbon to a new apron. Or photo copy each recipe and bind it together in a book.

10. And don’t forget to have your child include their address in the thank you card with a few extra stamps. They may just receive a summertime pen pal from their teacher, crossing guard, bus driver, daycare provider, librarian, coach, or anyone else who has made a huge difference in their life this school year. And through the years, teachers don’t forget their students. Proof – I just heard from my 1st grade teacher who hasn’t seen me in over 20 years!

Of course, while those we are thanking would never tell you this, there are a few gifts that you should avoid giving if you can.

Coffee cups. I guarantee each teacher receives several each year. Multiply that now by every year the teacher is in the classroom. That’s a lot of coffee cups.

Ornaments. Unless you know your teacher is an avid collector of all things Christmas, there comes a point when their tree just can’t take anymore.

Gifts that are TOO personal. Skip the Victoria’s Secret gift certificate or the fishnet stockings. I’m not saying teachers don’t need lingerie too, but it probably shouldn’t come from their student.

Anything that says “World’s Best Teacher” on it (or anything else teacher related). They might just be the world’s best teacher. They don’t need 20 plaques that say it all over their home or classroom that were given to them by numerous students. Same goes for Chicken Soup for a Teacher’s Soul. I know the stories are tear-jerking. I also know that each teacher has probably been gifted this more than once.

Religious gifts. Saying thank you while saving their soul might not feel like much of a thank you, especially if they don’t share your faith. Just saying.

Baked goods. Some might appreciate it, but most just end up in the teacher’s lounge. Just like us, teachers are watching their waist lines too. And let’s face it, even if you are the best baker in the county there are plenty of others who are not. After years of braving mediocre homemade goodies, the teacher may just decide they can’t chance it even on your prize winning banana bread.

Scented gifts. Candles, lotions, body soaps… They might smell lovely to you, but they also might induce an allergic reaction in your teacher. Not only that, some of the lesser expensive scented gifts smell AWFUL. Best to skip it in favor of a gift card to your favorite bath shop.


Are you a teacher, daycare provider, librarian, coach, principal, teacher’s aide, bus driver…? What was the best end of year/season gift you have ever received? And are you brave enough to share the worst (I’ll totally accept anonymous comments if you’ll dish!)?

Baseball Mitt

It was a recent Friday night, and I got rid of the kid.  The Taz’ friend in Windsor asked if he could spend the night after school.  Actually, it was more like his friend’s MOM asked. I always think that’s way cool because it means that my kid has made a good impression on another parent – which is never a bad thing when the nickname for your kid is short for Tasmanian Devil.  Of course, I’m friends with this woman, so I had to make sure she knew what she was doing.  But she insisted, and then became the heir to the vast fortune of pens I’ve stolen inherited from work, just because I love her that much.  If I’d thought things through a little harder I would have also asked if she were interested in a couple teenagers so that Mr. W and I could skip town.  But instead, Mr. W and I spent a riveting night with the teens catching up on our shows.  Of course, if they weren’t there, we’d probably be camped out on the couch doing the same.  Naked.  Alright, we’d be sporting sweats.  But they’d be damn sexy.

The Taz had baseball Saturday morning, which meant I had to be super organized to coordinate everything.  Organization is not my forte.  Since moving to Petaluma a month ago, I still have numerous boxes piles up in the garage titled “Miscellaneous Crap”.  And that’s exactly what they are.  There are things in those boxes that I’m actually missing.  But rather than go through them I’d prefer to complain about my missing items loudly to anyone not smart enough to change rooms once they see me rummaging around in the same place they’re NOT over and over.

“Seriously guys, why can’t I find my cheese collection from the old house?  And what the hell is that smell?!?”

No, the organization thing is not my best suit.  But I was way ahead of myself this time in my excitement that another parent liked my Taz enough to ask him over.  I washed and folded the Taz’ uniform and put it in a neat pile with his shoes, hat, and belt.  I made sure to remind him several times to pack his toothbrush, pajamas, and a clean pair of boxers.  And when I sent him off, I was pleased that everything was in order.  I mean, even his teacher looks at me funny when I mention I write a parenting column, and before she asks why the Taz doesn’t have his homework.  Again.  But this time?  I was ready for anything.

My organization skills were solid the next morning when I left the house at the exact time I needed to leave to pick him up.  DQ and I made it to Windsor in perfect time, had a couple minutes to chat at the house, and were on our way.  From the looks of things, we would even be 10 minutes early.  We were almost there when the Taz piped up in the back seat.

“Did you bring my glove?”

You know that moment when the whole world stops and you can see little bits of air particles moving slowly around you in slow motion before the impact happens?  Yeah.  It was that. 

I cannot repeat here the exact words that left my mouth at that point, though I admit it was not my proudest of moments.  And as I mimicked pirates, I also became acutely aware of my dwindling gas tank as we neared the field in Santa Rosa and I knew I’d end up driving all the way to Petaluma and back to retrieve the stupid glove.  Rather than make him late, I dropped him off at the field with his sister, booked it to the gas station, raced back home, and made it back to the field just in time to miss my son do some of his best pitching in the first two innings (using a borrowed glove), and a ball he hit to the fence in a double.  And, as the Ump further relayed to me, I also missed his play of the game when he ran off the pitcher’s mound and covered home to get a guy out.

“Way to go, Mom of the Year,” the Ump teased, and I played my mini violin as I described my martyrdom that had made me late.  But seriously, a Mom of the Year wouldn’t have dropped everything to perform an hour of drive-time to get the glove that was her 10 year old son’s responsibility to get.  Instead, she would have let her son risk sitting out the entire game, thus ensuring his glove wouldn’t be forgotten again (in theory, of course, as lessons in our house tend to take several tries – like video game priveleges….)

But let’s face it, I’ll probably end up doing it again next time it happens.

Baseball sign-ups

Here is a quick list of dates for registration for baseball. If your league is not here, it means I don’t have the information. So if you know something I don’t, be sure to leave it in the comments. Some leagues are also accepting online registration. Check with your league to find out if yours does. Many of the websites also have all the paperwork you need on their websites so that you can fill them out and have them ready, making sign-ups super fast.

Be prepared to bring your child’s birth certificate, at least 2 proofs of residency (utility bills), and a check for payment (fees vary with each league).

All Santa Rosa Little Leagues
January 8th & 9th and 15th & 16th at T&B Sports on Steele Lane from 9am to 3pm
Rincon Valley
Mark West
SR American

Santa Rosa Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken
Sign-ups unknown

All Petaluma Little Leagues
Tuesday, January 4, 2011 – 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Saturday, January 8, 2011 – 9:00am to 1:00pm
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 – 5:00pm to 9:00pm
Bernard Eldredge Elementary School – 207 Maria Drive, Petaluma
Petaluma American
Petaluma National
Petaluma Valley

Healdsburg Little League
Saturday January 8, 11 AM – 4 PM at E&M Electric – 126 Mill Street, Healdsburg January 18th 5:30 pm-7 pm Walk-In @ Player Clinic (HHS Baseball field)
(Or returning players can fax completed forms to 431-9277)

Rancho Cotate Little League
January 8th 10 am – 2pm
January 15th 10 am – 2 pm
January 20th 5 pm – 7 pm
Cotati Community Center

Rohnert Park Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth
Wed January 5th 6pm – 8:30pm
Rohnert Park Community Center

Sonoma Valley Little League
Tuesday January 4th, 6pm – 9pm
Wednesday January 5th, 6pm – 9pm
Round Table Pizza, 201 W. Napa St.

Valley of the Moon Little League
Mon. Jan.3, 6:30-8:30pm, Round Table Pizza
Wed. Jan.5, 6:30-8:30pm, Round Table Pizza
Thu. Jan.6, 6:30-8:30pm, Round Table Pizza
Sat. Jan.8, 10am-12pm, El Verano School

Sonoma Valley Babe Ruth
Sign-ups unknown

Windsor Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth
Late Registration: Jan 1 – 31st (subject to a $15.00 late fee)
Registration Closes: Jan 31st (any player registering after Jan 31st will be placed on a Wait List pending team formations)

Sebastopol Little League
Wed January 5th, 5:30pm – 8pm
Sat January 8th, 9am – 2pm
Analy High School Cafeteria

El Molino Little League
Jan 8th 10am – 2pm, Forestville Youth Park
Jan 12th 6pm – 8pm, Andorno’s Restaurant in Forestville

Cloverdale Little League
January 5th 5 pm-8 pm Daly Field Snack Bar
January 8th 9 am -noon at Cloverdale HS gym

Ukiah Little League
January 12th, 13th & 18th 6 pm- 8 pm at Yokayo Elementary

Girls on the Run Sonoma County

Guest post by Courtney Keeney, senior at Sonoma State University and a coach for Girls on the Run Sonoma County.

Clockwise from upper left: 1 – Penngrove & McNear Elementary GOTR girls handing out water at the Carousel Fund Run water stop in Petaluma, 2 – Penngrove Elementary & McNear Elementary GOTR girls volunteering at the Carousel Fund Run Race in Petaluma, 3 – GOTR team from McNear Elementary in Petaluma, 4 – GOTR team from Strawberry Valley Elementary in Santa Rosa

The clock strikes 3pm. A flock of young girls rush out of the classroom doors, fill up their water bottles and munch down a tasty snack from the lunch Mom packed that day. The youngsters can hardly wait for the program to begin. Sporting their bright seasonal colored Girls on the Run t-shirts, with running shoes laced, hair tied back and energy levels rising out of the roof, the feeling of being a part of a team and working towards a goal is an apparent form of excitement for these young girls.

With the mission “to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living”, Girls on the Run Sonoma County reaches out to nearly twenty elementary schools and clubs in the local community. As a non-profit prevention program, Girls on the Run touches the lives of countless 3rd through 6th grade girls in the most pivotal years of their development.

After school, twice a week, the young girls come together with their team and two dedicated volunteer coaches to participate in interactive curriculum, addressing real life issues such as dealing with body image and the media, resisting peer pressure and making healthy decisions-while incorporating running and hands on activities.

“The energy, excitement, and how proud they feel is so emotionally inspiring”, said Strawberry Valley Elementary School Girls on the Run coach Shelly Bolander.

Bolander is in her second season at Strawberry Valley Elementary School and stands behind the program with all her heart.

“The program has an incredible message of being active at a young age, which is very important. Girls on the Run is the perfect balance of exercise, fun, and education”.

Any girl can benefit from the program and learn to work as a team. Don’t let the name scare you away. Participants in the program do not have to be strong runners. Running, walking, jogging, skipping; any form of exercise will do as long as movement is involved.

According to Bolander, the curriculum is very valuable and touches on extremely important life issues these girls will soon be faced with in their process of maturation.

Discussing difficult topics, addressing and confronting tough issues, learning the importance of respect and compassion for one another, admiring good role models, and understanding how to stand up for themselves are only a few positive perks the program instills in these young innocent minds.

At the end of this twelve week program, each girl has a goal to complete a non-competitive 5K run/walk event.

In her two seasons of coaching, Bolander remembers two particular youngsters that stand out in her mind, which were positively impacted by the program in a huge way.

“I had two girls struggling with their weight; they had a hard time committing at first. However, once that 5K event came around, these girls fought the hardest. Their determination shined through and they completed every last step of that run.”

Accomplishments such as these make this program very beneficial to not only the children, but also the supportive adult role models. Stepping aside from their busy lives to volunteer four hours a week to these young children, speaks volumes.

Girls on the Run participants will complete a community service project, volunteer at a local race and complete a 5K event in November to round up the season.

Empowered with a greater self-awareness, sense of achievement and a foundation in team building to help them become strong and confident young women, Girls on the Run Sonoma County strives to make an impact in the life of girls everywhere…one step at a time.

For more information or to become involved with Girls on the Run, please visit or email Executive Director Catrina Dierke at