Welcome, Summer! This time of year brings long evenings, cool swims in the pool, watermelon and baseball with friends. Each year I notice an increase of parents acting less than, um, parental at the ball field. It’s almost as if something happens at the ball field where their brain no longer knows right from wrong. Winning is their sole obsession.
Winning is wonderful. I’m a Type A perfectionist. I want to win. It’s fueled my desire to work hard and succeed.
To my disadvantage, though, I have let that desire to win stop me from trying if I didn’t think I had something in the bag. Learning to lose gracefully is a sign of emotional maturity. It’s also a gift that many do not possess.
The desire to win is not evil.
The desire to win at the expense of anything else is wrong.
I usually don’t write in absolutes. However, I wholeheartedly stand by my statement. We have gotten away from grace. We don’t allow ourselves the grace to fall, so we don’t feel the need to extend grace to others. But, oh, how we’re missing out on a full life when we miss out on grace. Coaches, parents, fans, players – we all have a responsibility at the ball field, regardless of whether it’s Little League or MLB.
- Be a good sport. Calls will be missed. Players will make mistakes. Coaches will play the wrong player. Yelling at whoever messed up will not fix the mistake. The only thing is does is add fuel to the fire. Also, keep in mind everyone there is human, including you. That call may have looked a little different if you had been in a different seat. More than anything, be a good sport.
- Do not belittle anyone. This includes anyone who is in the stands, any player and any coach. Anyone. It is perfectly acceptable to cheer for your team. However, booing for the other team does not make your team any better. (It also doesn’t make their team any worse, just for the record.)
- Appreciate the talent. Some people think that their team or child is just God’s gift to this earth and that no one else could possibly ever find favor. A good fan will appreciate the talent and hard work the opposing team shows. Again, no one is saying you can’t cheer for your team. But by appreciating their talent and work, you understand you aren’t entitled to anything. Also, as a player, by realizing the talent the other team has, you’ll be able to better train and play your absolute best.
- At all times show respect.
By focusing on only winning, regardless of whether or not that win was deserved, we are instilling poor morals and values onto the next generation. Yelling and belittling is easy. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. It takes true strength to see the players and coaches as valuable human beings. It takes true strength to see beyond the moment.
If you have a child in a sport, I’d like to leave you with this final poem.
He’s Just a Little Boy by Chaplain Bob Fox
He stands at the plate with his heart pounding fast.
The bases are loaded; the die has been cast.
Mom and Dad cannot help him; he stands all alone.
A hit at this moment would send his team home.
The ball meets the plate; he swings, and he misses.
There’s a groan from the crowd, with some boos and some hisses.
A thoughtless voice cries, “Strike out the bum.”
Tears fill his eyes; the game’s no longer fun.
So open up your heart and give him a break,
For it’s moments like this, a man you can make.
Please keep this in mind when you hear someone forget.
He is just a little boy and not a man, yet.