Maybe it hasn’t sprung elsewhere. But in North County, the rite of spring can be seen on ball fields throughout the region.
Little League and softball leagues are revved up and reaching full throttle with opening days in the past and nothing but good times in the present and future.
Thing is, we don’t sweat the kids having fun with their buddies as they form a bond that could last long past the final snow cone is devoured at the cozy snack stand.
Few things are better in athletics then watching a group of individuals become a squad, leaning on each other for help and extending a hand to those seeking the same.
While the focus of this column is youth sports it has nothing to do with the final score or how little Johnny did batting leadoff for the first time.
The spotlight instead is on those with their backsides in the stands while their hearts are on the diamonds. Many players’ parents wouldn’t dare miss a game just like we won’t skip a chance to preach.
But there’s no need for a soapbox. Maybe just soap will do.
Most folks are cool when sweating and squirming with every pitch that their offspring offers. The majority of parents are keen when eyeing the games, quick to offer praise or a dose of encouragement if something — and it always does — goes haywire.
Those adults are just that and wouldn’t it be grand if their colleagues acted in a similar classy manner?
But we realize that’s a longer shot than a kid not striking out over a season. We know parents — and it’s not always the dad — can wreck any game for the person they care about the most.
It’s uncanny that a child only hears his parent, even if there’s a chorus of chatter coming from the aluminum bleachers that are too hot during the day and too chilly at night.
Most youth sports fields have a sign hugging the back stop fence that reminds the grown-ups to act like a grown-up. The jest is if they raise their voice, the tone should bring with it nothing but positive vibes.
Cheer for some other kid with the same vigor as your own and it’s amazing how quickly the other parents notice.
Something struck me as well after some three decades of youth coaching: the negative narrative seldom works and it only makes the adult look smaller than the child.
There’s a saying that the players play and the coaches coach. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the parents followed suit and stayed in their lane as well?
So go easy on the tykes and don’t second-guess a coach who is donating his time to spend it with your kid. Or if the coach really is overmatched, then help run a two-hour practice where he’s asked to babysit and teach youngsters how to hit, pitch, catch and run.
Umpires? They should be treated with the utmost respect and yes the kids are watching. If you pepper the person in blue with constant criticism it reflects badly on you and embarrasses your kid.
These arbitrators work for peanuts and are usually doing their part in this grand community endeavor of providing healthy athletics.
Do you really think these umps plot before the game to make sure an 11-year-old player is wrongly called out? Or that a border-line pitch which possibly caught the plate’s corner was called otherwise?
Don’t be the person that makes others cringe. Stand tall for your kids and show restraint if a call goes the wrong way.
The right way to enjoy a summer of youth sports is to be like the kids — have fun, wear a smile and then meet up for that post-game snow cone.
That’s not up to the youngsters tugging on their oversized jerseys. If wanting to help, be supportive as that fits everyone to a ‘T.’
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports