The baseball season is well underway, and as the father of three young sons, it has fallen to me to be their backyard coach. My job, my wife reminds me, is to teach them to throw the ball straight and hard, hit the ball solidly and often, and catch the ball inerrantly.

This is an impossible job. Kids throw balls wildly, hit them well only rarely, and drop as many as they catch. My belief in education and hard work tempts me to resist this truth, and I valiantly work to eliminate wildness, whiffs, and errors in my sons' play. But a few practice sessions make realists of all youth baseball instructors, and the question quickly changes from How soon can we get these young players playing well? to How good is good enough?

I have always struggled with how much to expect (demand?) of my boys in terms of performance. How good is good enough? My oldest son, David, is a decent player as 11-year-olds go. His biggest assets are he likes to play and works hard to improve. So I can push him to practice ...

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