We are heading into the final stretch of ball season. We only have about two more weeks, with state softball for my daughter, and district and state Little League baseball for my son the only two big events left on our radar. I was chatting with another mom at Buddy’s USSSA state game this weekend, and it got me to thinking. You see, we were discussing the fact that these are a bunch of ten- and eleven-year-old boys, and that winning state-or even placing-is not really what this is all about. She told me about her previous team, where the coach of nine-year-olds was fired for coming in third at state. Yes, you read that correctly. Third!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like winning as much as the next person. Of course it is more fun. But winning games is NOT why my children play. As much as we love homeschooling, there are some lessons that are better learned “out there” and so we carefully chose teams that we felt would match our goals for our children. And while there certainly are times that we parents could show a little more sportsmanship, I love our teams and am happy to back up my children’s coaches, who work hard for no monetary reward.
This is a Game
One of my favorite photos that has come across Facebook is a little sign that says something along the lines of this:
These are little boys.
This is a game.
The coaches are volunteers.
The umpires are human.
You do not play for the Yankees.
Doesn’t that put it into perspective? Of the kids on my children’s teams only a few will go on to play in college, and probably none will be a professional ball players. So winning games is not the objective. What is then? Here is my list:
1. Teamwork! Learning to work as a team, even if you don’t like all your teammates or have spent too much time with them. Doesn’t this translate into real life? For example, working at the workplace?
2. Obeying authority. Coaches expect obedience, and disobeying brings unhappy consequences. Sometimes it is running extra laps or sitting out of a game. For one little boy this weekend, ignoring the third base coach’s signals to stop turned a beautiful double into a tag out at third. The chat the boy had with his head coach after that play is one that he isn’t likely to forget.
3. Ignoring criticism. Unfortunately, criticism is going to come, both from inside the field and out. Learning to do your best and understanding that you can only give it your all, is another life lesson my children have had to learn. Early on we spent a lot of time discussing with Boo that just because one of her teammates gets frustrated and lets loose on her, doesn’t mean that what Boo is doing is wrong. And learning to do what your coach says, even when it earns you an out and causes chatter in the stands, is another lesson that took awhile to swallow. Sometimes we need to obey a boss, even if no one else understands why.
4. Health and hand-eye coordination. Learning to stretch, to exercise, to eat properly. And to practice hand-eye coordination.
5. Working hard persistently to meet a goal, even when it takes a long time. Both of my kids have worked hard at learning to hit and field well. They start indoor practice in January and don’t see the rewards of that hard work until the games start in May.
6. Overcoming adversity. Like it or not, bad games come. When we lose, we need to be good losers. When another team treats us poorly, we need to take the higher road. If we get hit with a ball, we need to work through it.
7. Being a good winner. On the other hand, we also need to learn to win well. Saying “good game,” not rubbing it in another’s face, being compassionate when another team has an injury-all of these are skills my kids have learned.
8. Letting go. A game is a game. We need to get back up on our horse again if we lose one.
Do your kids play competitive sports? What are some life lessons they have learned from doing so?