To all the coaches, parents, and fans of little league,
The season is upon us. Fields all over are filled with parents, fans, coaches, players, and umpires. It’s an exciting time of year for boys and girls, the cold is finally turning warmer, the days are slowly becoming longer, school is almost out for summer, and their dreams of home runs are about to become realities. But I have to say, as a parent that has been around the fields for a few years, I find it a little harder to get excited. It’s not because I don’t want to watch my little boy play his favorite game, it’s because I dread the feelings that are sure to come rushing in when I hear the other parents and sometimes coaches berating the kids on the field.
It’s really hard to sit back and watch my son sweat from all the pressure he is under not to make a mistake. It’s hard to watch how hard he practices everyday after school, knowing that he will inevitably make mistakes during the game. It’s hard knowing that because of those innocent mistakes, there will be parents in the stands loudly sighing, whispering, and publicly doubting his ability. It’s hard watching other kids break down on the field in tears because they fear their mistake will let down their parents. I’ve seen kids quit the game. I’ve seen them take a love they once had for this game and turn it into hate. I’ve seen children go from a point of high self-esteem to a point of very low self-esteem. I’ve witnessed parents fighting, screaming, and threatening each other. Heck, to be honest, I have found myself in those very situations.
Parents, coaches, and fans, I want you to remember that… These children are still learning, developing, and growing. The star of the team now, may not be the star next year. The kid that chases butterflies in the outfield may grow up to play Major League. And, let us all need to keep in mind, this is little league, not MLB, heck it’s not even high school yet, so lets give the kids a break and let them enjoy the game while they still can. The kids are out there to learn the basics, but most importantly they need to learn to love the game, because if they don’t, it’s all a waste of time. They need to be able to have a trust in their coaches, parents, and fans that they will safely be able to learn, take chances and make mistakes. Winning is fun but losing is a lesson. Remember that there are so many important lessons to be taught in losing, but only so much can be learned from winning.
I want you to remember something else… the next time you yell from the stands to “strike the bum out”. The next time you take off your hat, throw it down and stomp off the field in response to him dropping the ball. The next time you sit him on the bench because he isn’t reliable out in the field. The next time you scream at the umpire because “he needs glasses” and “that was a horrible call”. Think about this when you’re fuming because your team lost the game or your pitcher walked 3 kids in a row. Remember this when you’re screaming at them…
He is a little boy who is still scared to sleep in a dark room by himself. He is a little boy that still cries when he falls and scrapes his knee. He is a little boy who wakes up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. He is a little boy who still looks up to adults for guidance. He is a little boy who is trying to fit in and please his peers. He is a little boy who has dreams of one day playing in the Major Leagues. He is a little boy who still wants his mom to comfort him when he is sick. He is a little boy that is changing and developing everyday. He is a little boy that is just now beginning to find the confidence he needs to come out of his shell. He is a little brother, a big brother, your son, your grandson, your son’s best friend, your student, your nephew and that boy on first base is my son.
That little boy has a mom who hurts when he hurts. Who is happy when he is happy. She celebrates with him and grieves with him. And you can bet your last dollar she’ll do anything to stand up for him. That little boy’s Mama carried him inside of her for nine months, prayed for him, longed for him, dreamed of him. She went through several excruciating hours of pain to bring him into this world. She will jump in front of speeding cars, and bullets for him. She has known fears and the world of little league isn’t one of them and she will by no means stand by and watch you belittle him, steal his joy, strip him of his confidence, and embarrass him. In fact, she is sitting in the stands at every game, watching, waiting, praying, and hoping she doesn’t have to fly into action. She isn’t only there to defend hers; she will proudly defend any child on that team.
So you keep that in mind the next time you put winning a game before the feelings of a sweet child. There is a very thin, weak, and blurred line that separates those living for their children and those living through their children. If you’re not careful you can very easily find yourself on the wrong side of that line. One more thing to remember…You had your turn, now let the child have his.