About five years ago I was coaching my Little League team in a game that we were winning and yelled out some encouragement during an inning when the other team was rallying. My catcher called “time out” went to the mound to talk to the pitcher. Before I knew it, the whole infield was on the pitcher’s mound. I just observed and saw all six of my players conversing and nodding their heads. This went far longer than you would expect. Especially considering the ages of the kids. I was amazed at how well they were communicating with each other. I remember thinking to myself that this is what youth sports is all about. Watching the kids grow right in front of our eyes. So I decided to write down what I think are some important life lessons kids can learn from baseball. And remember for every coach or team this will vary.
One of my biggest pet peeves in the world today is the lack of or just not knowing how to communicate with each other. A famous actor once said that of life is just showing up. The older I get this has become truer every year. I’d add to it that of life is just showing up and communicating with others. How many times have we seen people not communicating properly? It can be a real estate or any business transaction. It can also be a between two countries. Most times the lack of communication will bring negative results. On the baseball field good communication will bring about good results. And coaches and parents should not be concerned about the young age of the players. We coaches have to teach our players how to communicate properly on the baseball field. Whether it is an infield fly, acknowledging a bunt sign from a coach, proper communication on the baseball field will carry on to every day living.
2) Following Rules
Our society is full of rules and laws. Sometimes I think there are too many but this is the world in which we live in. I have also observed that has somehow we have gotten away from structure. We can be flexible in the way we do things but I have found in sports the best results happen when rules are put in place and players are conditioned to follow them and play and practice in a structured manner. In pro sports, you’ll find the best athletes like organization, leadership and rules. Coaches can impose rules in a diplomatic yet stern way. Rules of the game also have to be respected and followed and sports does this. Teaching young athletes to respect rules will be a sound foundation when they out into the real world.
3) Dealing With Pressure
I have seen many parents who don’t want their kids to be exposed any degree of pressure what so ever. They will purposely make any excuse so their kids can bypass the most pressured situation. I think this is a mistake. An example I’ll give is that most youth baseball leagues do not have real parity. Most coaches and parents will always try to get the advantage when picking teams. They think nothing of having a loaded team and think it is better to go 20-0, winning each game 10-0 and win the league championship. Is this making their kids better ball players and preparing them for adult life? Wouldn’t it serve young people better if they are asked to perform sometimes under some pressure and a little duress. Wouldn’t leagues be better if teams played in their share of one and two run games and extra innings? When they are adults won’t they have to perform under pressure whether it is a presentation to their superiors or maybe emergency surgery. As a parent and coach I never wanted my kids to always take the easy road.
4) Overcoming Mistakes
Everyday most human beings are bound to make a mistake here and there. People in the medical profession can very rarely afford to make mistakes. In sports mistakes are always happening. A bad pitch, a holding call on a 3rd and 1 play, a missed foul shot. If you follow sports you are bound to recognize that one of the things that separate the best athletes is that they are able to bounce back from mistakes. Part of our job as youth baseball coaches is to instill upon our kids that if you make a mistake, forget about it and go on to the next pitch. The worse thing an athlete can do is carry one bad at bat to his next at bat. Imagine the best trial lawyer in world losing a case and quitting law? Great lawyers will evaluate where and what they did wrong and over come these challenges the next time. Youth baseball should do the same thing. A player who strikes out his first three times at bat may be in a position to win the game with a hit in the last inning. Sports teaches this to kids and we have to reaffirm this over and over again. You can overcome your mistakes.
5) Respect For People
In major league baseball there are brush back pitches, hard slides and other rough parts of the game. For the most part though players still respect the game. We have to convey to young baseball players to respect the game also. This includes teammates, parents, umpires etc. We have all seen the 12th best player get up in a situation where the team needs a hit. It is our job to get his teammates behind him and cheer him on. And isn’t it the most satisfying thing when a player of lesser talent gets an important hit or makes a play in the field. Once we teach players to respect the game of baseball they will also carry this over to respect not just themselves but to respect others in society.
Baseball teaches many things and we have to keep everything in perspective. But we also need to challenge these young players in different parts of the game so that they will also become better citizens in the world.