As a mother of three, I have spent a lot of time standing on the sidelines cheering on my favorite athletes. Between them, my kids have played almost every sport and I have the basketballs, smelly cleats, broken lacrosse sticks and used mouth guards to prove it.
This season I am spending a lot of time in the bleachers at the baseball diamond watching my tween son play ball. This is his fifth year playing in the town program. I still don’t know all the rules of the game but I have learned a lot about life while sitting in the bleachers.
1) It’s better to play than to win
One season, my son’s team did not win one game. Not one. It was the worst. That is, until the following season when his team won the championship. Yes, he got the big trophy, but he didn’t feel like a winner because the coach barely played him. When Henry Russell “Red” Sanders said, “Winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing” he wasn’t talking to kids or tweens – at least not my tween. It turns out it is better to play and lose, then never to play at all.
2) It’s Okay to Fail
Watching my son play week after week, I really admire his bravery. While baseball is a team sport, when you are up at the plate, it’s like the sun shines a giant spotlight on this one player. The batter has to think quickly, act fast and make decisions on these balls flying past his face. Sometimes, they hit and sometimes they don’t. But whatever happens, they need to forget about it the next time they come to bat. Putting failures into the past is a life skill and it’s one many adults can use practice in. I hope my son carries this lesson with him and it makes him unafraid to attempt other things in life he might not master at first.
3) The best part is the camaraderie
I love listening to the kids in the dugout cheering on their teammates in the batter’s box. I love the high fives as they come in from the field after making a great play. But what I love the most, are the back pats and “shake it off” advice they give each other when the inning hasn’t gone their way. They say, “You go up as a team and you go down as a team” and when you see a bunch of kids that really play that way, supporting each other and not placing blame, it is really something special.
4) The kids shake off the losses better than the parents
As much as it stinks to lose, kids seem to be able to forget a lot quicker then some of the adults. They understand that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Most of the bad sportsmanship I have seen has occurred not between the kids but between the adults. Sometimes I do wonder if the kids would have more fun if they played by themselves– like in the move The Sandlot – with no adults coaching or cheering. Just kids just playing together for fun, without a trophy in sight.
5) In every game there is a winner and a loser
When you watch tween sports, it’s important to remember that every kid in the field belongs to someone. I hate it when my son strikes out- it hurts my heart. I try to remember that when the pitcher on his team strikes out a player. While I want to praise the pitcher for doing his job, I don’t want the kid at the plate to feel worse than he does. Tween sports are not professional sports and even if we are rooting for one team, we can’t ever root against the other.
6) Never give up
When the season started, my son told us how much he wanted to hit a homerun. Neither my husband nor I thought it would happen to for him, just because he is one of the smaller players and tends not to be a power hitter. We didn’t discourage him but we also didn’t make any guarantees it would happen. As the season progressed, his at bats varied from nice grounders to a few pop outs and the occasional strikeouts. Then one day, there was a perfect pitch and a perfect swing and the ball went over the fence perfectly. Sometimes in life you want something and even with hard work and a good attitude it just doesn’t happen. And then, there are those times when your dreams come true. His homerun ball sits in his room and I hope it is a reminder throughout his life to never give up.
Image: MattNJohnson via Flickr under CC
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About Randi Mazzella
Randi Mazzella is a mother three and freelance writer. Her work has been published in many print and online publications including She-Knows, Teen Life, Club Mid and About.com. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @rmazz90210.