I often take a walk in the late afternoon or early evening around the park next to our house. The mile-long track provides opportunities to eavesdrop of little league baseball games, mostly kids in the 1st through 6th grade age range.

So far the parents have behaved themselves. No fits of anger or raging arguments such as the shameful actions of several parents and coaches at my own baseball games. I remember my dad began a chant during one heated exchange: “Just a game, just a game.” No, the parents in Southern Vermont are very civil regarding their Spring and Summer sports. Hockey may be a different matter, but I have not witnessed that yet.

Though I’ve seen very little of the kids, since they’re either occupying a slice of real estate on the diamond like a decorative statue or cracking jokes on the bench. The one part of the game I typically experience while walking by is the shouting of encouragement. While the kids will sometimes spout out an up-lifting comment, they more often than not express what’s on their minds, which typically is either doubt, frustration, or a mix of both. Some will sound familiar.

“Come on Kyle, you can hit it. Just swing. Just swing Kyle.”

Which translates into: “Kyle, you’ve watched every pitch go by, your bat is still on your shoulder, and we all wish you would at least wave it at the ball while it goes by since we’re so dang bored here on the bench.” Then there’s the less subtle:

“Come on Ian, throw strikes!”

Which translates into: “The other team just scored two more runs because you’ve walked them home after loading the bases.”

Encouragement. Sometimes what passes as encouragement is just a poor excuse for voicing what’s on our minds and what’s getting on our nerves.