When overzealous Little League fathers and coaches unwittingly push young players too hard, Little League mothers should recognize the signs and interrupt the process before injury occurs.
That advice is based on what a prominent orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and a child psychologist say is all too often the way injuries happen. The pair of experts plan to participate Saturday in a seminar--perhaps the first of its kind to try to give mothers of Little League baseball players specific information on sports medicine and sports psychology.
From that base, organizers hope, Little League mothers can learn to work more effectively as cooling and reasoning influences in the sometimes emotionally overwrought activities of their children and spouses. The seminar also may benefit a large but often ignored population: Little League mothers who happen to be raising their children alone but have difficulty coping with their children's athletic activities.
The workshop, titled "How to Be a Great Little League Mom," will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until noon. It is being sponsored by Centinela Hospital and its affiliated National Athletic Health Institute, whose sports injury clinic director, Dr. Lewis A. Yocum, is the orthopedist for the California Angels baseball team. Yocum has also served as a consultant to the professional Rams, Dodgers, Kings and Lakers.
The seminar will be at the hospital's auditorium at 555 E. Hardy St., Inglewood. Reservations, which are required, can be obtained by calling 678-6244.
While feminists may object that the very premise of the seminar lets men off the hook, excuses their behavior as hopelessly unavoidable and leaves it to women to straighten things out by themselves, sponsors say that is not their purpose. The session springs, they say, from an awareness of the unfortunate social reality that men have not dealt very well with sports as they relate to children. And single-parent households give women little choice in the matter, anyway.
"One of the things we're trying to do is promote an awareness that it's OK for a mother to ask questions," Yocum said in an interview. "All too often, fathers (even if they are present in the household) are too caught up in it. Often, they feel they know all the answers and so they're less receptive to a lot of information. They want their son(s) to excel and, by and large, even though girls are playing Little League, it is still a male sport.
"The fathers are a less flexible group because it's hard to tell a guy who's 42, and has been playing baseball since he was 6, anything about the game. We're trying to talk about common sense things for which Mom may have a little more empathy and understanding."
A lot of what Yocum and psychologist Alan Yellin plan to cover in the Saturday session could easily come under the heading: "good parenting." Balancing of a youngster's competitive drives--or lack of them--and the child's physical and mental health are essential, both men agreed.
Sentence in Brochure
Sitting in on the interview with Yellin and Yocum, Tom Boyle, regional director for the Little League (which has 900 league operations in California, and involves 800,000 children nationwide) took issue with a sentence in a promotional brochure for Saturday's program that proclaims the session will "address the (problem) of how to help your child lose."
After all, Boyle argued, there is nothing necessarily wrong with winning--if the victory is pursued ethically and with a sense of proportion.
Yellin saw the issue another way. Mothers, he said, can encourage their children not just to warm up physically for a game, but show them how to warm up--and "warm down"--psychologically. That should be, he said, a process in which a child can grasp the importance of both victory and defeat.
"The warming up and warming down should be, in a sense, preparing the child for both losing and winning and taking the emphasis from both to an emphasis on improving. That's what is important. With young Little Leaguers, this is often their first experience with a group and the sense of a team. I think it's important to help kids become both good winners and good losers.
"I think we need to treat that very carefully so the emphasis is on neither winning nor losing. Little League can often be a microcosm of life. There will be losses and there will be wins. The real purpose is teaching the child how to handle both well."
Yellin had some other suggestions of how mothers can help their Little League children:
--If the child truly wants to play Little League ball, and the family decides he or she should do so, then the commitment must be taken seriously. "Children often are asked not to go to a game or practice because they need to go to Grandma's house," Yellin said. "That can be devastating to the child who really feels he doesn't want to let the team down."