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The Batting Cage

The Batting Cage

During my college days, my roommate and I took a break from our studies and headed to a local amusement facility. Part of their offerings was a batting cage. I had never been co-ordinated enough to make worthy contact between the bat and a ball, so I wasn’t too keen on entering the cage. After a number of laps in a go-cart, a round of mini-golf, and numerous sessions on some arcade games, my roommate said, “Let’s hit some baseballs.”

Kent and I took turns entering the cage. He consistently connected with a satisfying crack. Me? Well, turns out Ben Afflect wasn’t the worst bat-man after all. I was! The machine almost pitched a no-hitter.

As much as Kent was enjoying the cool breeze my bat was providing on this warm California evening, he was quick to ask, “Who taught you how to hit a ball?”

“Nobody,” I said, “I was left on my own.”

“You’re doing it so very wrong,” he pointed out.

“Well that might explain why I am so bad at it.” Truth was, I was mocked because I couldn’t hit a ball. The harshest demoralization came from my gym teacher; the fellow who was paid to teach me such things. I never forgot his joy in humiliating me. I was left in my ignorance and I was led to believe I was talentless when it came to baseball.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked. Kent took a few minutes to help me; literally, a few minutes. That was all it took.

I didn’t connect on every swing. In fact, at the start I still missed more than I hit. The new technique felt awkward and I was tempted to abandon it. But with each pitch, Kent gave me encouragement, and before we left that batting cage, I was smacking the ball like I had never done before, routinely hitting the far end of the cage.

Two minutes of help, some simple pointers on technique, and I had excelled beyond my assumed expectations. But it wasn’t just the, “try it this way,” advice my roommate gave me, it was the pitch-by-pitch encouragement. Since I didn’t initially connect with the ball, I think I would have given up. But the positive encouragement propelled me.

A few words of correction said at the right time, and heavily girded with positive encouragement made all the difference in that batting cage.

So, it is with fathering as well. There may be times I need to teach. There may be a need for a slight correction. But then, it is time to step back and become a spectator, cheering my child on so the victory is his.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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