Tomatoes and Youth Sports
                It is impossible to know which tomato is going to be the best tomato when you buy a pack of tomato seeds at the store. There are so many choices and many experts who will want to tell you which tomatoes are going to be the best. Most will recommend their seeds.
                 They will tell you where to buy your tomatoes and seeds and will tell you the proper way to grow them. Some will even tell you that hanging them upside down is the best way to grow great tomatoes. People will even say that buying the more expensive seeds and putting them in one specific area, with what is perceived to be the best growing environment, will be the only way to grow great tomatoes.
                 The so called “experts” will say that you have to do it their way if you want to get great tomatoes, but they really can’t prove it. They will tell you that over the years they have grown some of the best tomatoes around, but what they don’t tell you and they don’t want you to know is how many failures they have had with this recipe of theirs.
                 What they also don’t want to tell you is how mass production leaches valuable nutrients out of the soil. They espouse growing the same tomatoes year round every year.
                 There is an alternative to their way. You need to grow a different kind of crop for a season to balance out the soil for future generations of tomatoes. So by not planting tomatoes for one season you will actually get a better tomato the season after.
                 They also don’t tell you that for the most part they work in an environment that gets them the best possible equipment, the best possible resources, and still doesn’t necessarily mean they will have the best tomatoes.
                They have produced a lot of tomatoes over time and are pretty proud of the exceptional ones they have produced and will relish in that paradigm all the while denying the real truth. Their way is not necessarily the best way to grow tomatoes. They are just defending their turf and want to be considered great tomato growers, but they really aren’t. They just have produced the most tomatoes and probably the most consistent ones .
                 Even a farm that specializes in growing tomatoes may or may not produce a great tomato.          Specialized fertilizer, specialized ridged standards, specialized packing and shipping instructions will produce, over the long haul, a very consistent tomato that most people will buy. They will throw out the weaker tomatoes and not think a thing of it. They are of no use to the mass production of specialized tomatoes for this farm or organization.
                Surely the farm with all its extras like specialized growers whose only job is to research and grow great tomatoes based on a specialized formula must know that continuing to do the same thing season after season will get boring. They will not be able to produce the highest quality of tomatoes because they won’t be as sharp mentally and physically.
                What fun is that?
                And how much are these tomatoes costing each and every year to try and get the best tomato?
                 So, do we really know which way is going to provide the best tomato? Could it be, and isn’t it possible, that the most unlikely seed, grown by a little old lady in her small garden, will produce just as good a tomato as anyone else. She has a secret little way, gleaned over years of caring for her garden , and experimenting with new ways, being a little creative, and adjusting to the crop that she has, that when added with love and positive reinforcement, will produce a truly great tomato.
                 But if you ask her, she will tell you that she loves her garden and the vegetables she grows and treats them all the same and loves them all the same. She will say everyone wants to be loved, needed, and appreciated, so why should her garden be any different?
                She will spend a lot more time caring for the tomatoes in a nurturing way than she will never scold the tomatoes or those helping her grow the tomatoes for not being ripe on time or not being the best tomato. She will rarely take credit and brag about her tomatoes. She knows the tomatoes are the real story, she was just the nurturer. She stays humble, trustworthy and loved.
                 Her joy is in watching others eat the tomatoes and feel good about doing something for others. She cares for ALL the tomatoes equally knowing full well that her efforts in this area may or may not produce a great tomato. She will look on with pride at her tomato garden and be pleased with the effort she put in as much as, if not more than, the results.
                 You must nurture them ALL over a long period of time to help them grow and in the end when they are fully grown you will find out which tomato is the best. Even then it is not the fact that you have one great tomato. It is more that you have grown a lot of tomatoes that when put together make a great sauce, salad,  juice, or even just a snack to be enjoyed and thankful for. However, even when you may think you have a great tomato growing, and you see the potential for that tomato to be the best, another tomato may turn out to be better than that one.
                 If you eat the tomato before it is ripe because you can’t wait any longer, the tomato won’t taste as good as it will if you let it ripen more, will it? It may be the best tomato at the time, but by picking it, and saying it is the best tomato, you have given the tomato a status that it has not truly earned because it really isn’t better than all the other tomatoes, it just got a head start and is better now than the others.
                 Even if you do have the best tomato, you still must grow other tomatoes if you want to keep having good tomatoes to eat.
                A smaller tomato may turn out over the long haul to be a better tasting tomato than the one big one.
                 Even if you are in a tomato growing contest you can’t judge who has the best tomatoes from the seeds. You have to wait a long time to find out. But even then, don’t you have to have other tomatoes to judge who has the best?
                Now let’s talk about the tomato contest. Let’s say your town is competing against other towns in a tomato growing contest. Could it be that even your third best tomato is better than the other towns best tomato? Or are all of their tomatoes better than yours? Does it really matter? Isn’t it fun just to compete? Even if we don’t win the contest wasn’t it fun just to try our best and enjoy the journey. Does winning or losing the contest really determine how good the tomato is and how much we enjoy it? Can anyone but you determine how much you like the tomato and how good it tastes?
                What may taste good to you may not taste as good for the other person. After all, they are just tomatoes and this is about enjoying the tomatoes, not your ability or ego in growing them, isn’t it?
                 Wouldn’t it be fun after the contest was over to exchange recipes and talk about growing tomatoes with the other contestants? Wouldn’t it be fun to get together with them at their garden or yours and just talk about how much fun it is to grow tomatoes?
                Could it be that you need a whole lot of tomatoes, and need to keep experimenting with the growing technique to find out how to grow the best tomato? Does it really matter if you grow the best tomato? Haven’t we learned how subjective that can be? Even then what may work for growing one tomato may not work for others. However, there is a base of growth for all tomatoes.
                What is it? You need to nourish them. They need watering and plant food. Sunlight and proper temperatures are essential for long term growth and well being. You can’t water them too much, or give them too much sun or too little sun without consequences. You need balance. But most of all isn’t it better for you and the tomatoes if you just enjoy the journey and process of growing tomatoes?
                It’s why I wrote my book, Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports, and have a website and tweet @VJJStanley and speak to groups and train coaches and organizations