Sitting on the bleachers during a hot Saturday afternoon as the sun beams straight down on my head, or watching a group of five year olds from that same spot on a Wednesday evening as the sun hides her rays and permits a light breeze to tip-toe an appearance every now and again, I feel a dormant part of me wake up. I’m surprised at the butterflies dancing in the pit of my stomach, and I look down at the ragged nails giving up my secret to anyone who would happen to see.
And I listen.
I watch the life-lessons that play out before me as little boys chase after a ball that’s rolled into the fence. Fair and unfair, good calls and bad; the ways games play out mirrors the ups and downs of life.
I listen to the cheers from parents celebrating a good hit, cries to Run! as growing feet round the bases. And I hear the shouts of disbelief exclaiming What are you doing?! to the six-year-old who sincerely does not know what he’s doing because, after all, he is only six.
I watch a coach who lets his frustration get the best of him, huffing and puffing, stamping his feet, yelling at a kid for a much longer time than it took to make the mistake. And I look as another coach brings one of his players aside at the end of the inning, teaching him what he did wrong and should do differently the next time.
I watch the faces who see the tantrums thrown by grown men when their little boys miss a play versus the self-control of their own father as he encourages number 21 with Good cut! even though number 21 plays for the other team. And I hope that even in their young age they notice the difference in character.
Because they do watch, and they do listen. I hope they see that hard work and discipline matter and that, more often than not, these qualities are rewarded, but they’re not always rewarded. I hope they hear how to model good sportsmanship with their words and see that how they play the game really is more important than who won the game. And I hope that they learn that now is the time to act like a child and not when they have one of their own. Because their children may learn more by what they see during Little League than by all the words their parents uttered at home.
Watching T-ball from the perspective of a parent, I was surprised to learn that I am not immune to the crazy feelings that can start to stir within during the course of a competitive game. However, I find it so important to quell those feelings and provide my children with a better example. How do you model good sportsmanship for the children around you? What other life-lessons have you learned from a sport?