What is it about playing catch? How can such a simple past-time be so dog-gone satisfying?
Playing catch has but two actions – throw and catch. It has but one rule that need not ever be spoken or written down (but here I go anyway): throw the ball so the other person has a chance to catch it. That’s really about it. So as competition, it’s mostly personal. It’s you against you, but you get to play with someone else, so it’s also social – an opportunity for camaraderie.
Catch moves at whatever pace you want. It’s as challenging as you decide. It can be as fast, physical, cerebral or meditative as you make it. It’s perfect, catch is. Throw. Catch. Throw. Catch. Throoowww. Catch. Throw. Catch. That’s it, in a nutshell.
I spent a good part of the weekend playing catch again for the first time in years. My boy is four and yesterday we purchased balls and mitts and already he’s smitten. I heard it all weekend: “Let’s play catch, Dad!” And me, with Cat Steven’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” reverberating in my head, said, “You got it, buddy!” And out we went.
The tenor of our catch is set by his being four. I lob the ball up into an arc that is intended to land squarely in his mitt. He catches it or doesn’t, then throws it as best he can, and I catch it, or more often, turn and run after it.
But we’re in heaven and the banter is entirely spontaneous yet practically written in stone: “Nice catch!” “Oh! In and out of the glove!” “Rule number one: Use two hands!” “I catched it!” “Gotta lean in for those!” “Squeeze the mitt!” “I’m gonna throw it way high!” “Nice!” “My bad!” “What was that?” “Whoa! Great throw, buddy!” And on and on.
Oh, and “It’s ‘caught’, buddy, not ‘catched’.” A little grammar thrown in for good measure.
In fact, catch is a teaching opportunity that never ends, and because of its very simplicity, you will never fully learn it. You can always improve and every catch is different. You can drop one, but catch allows you to learn and move on to the next catch.
And with a kid, the teaching is simply part of the action. There we are just throwing and catching a ball. It’s not like I’m sitting there explicating the importance of bike safety or saving money. And yet within the lessons of catch are hidden other life lessons about fairness, respect, effort, pride and so on. You’re talking catch. You’re learning life. “Way to go, buddy!” Brilliant.