Thanks to our firstborn, I am a baseball Mom. I spend weekends at tournaments, spend fall evenings wrapped in blankets, have bug spray, sunscreen, and Double Bubble Gum in my game bag at all times, and am handy with a spectator tent. In 12 years our oldest child has played 12 seasons of spring baseball, 6 seasons of summer baseball, and 6 seasons of fall baseball. He loves the sport, plays on his high school team which just won the state championship, and has aspirations to play college baseball and join the major leagues some day. As a young man taller than me and holding a driver’s permit, this isn’t a little boy’s dream anymore. This is a young man’s plan for his future. How in the world did we get here?
Like every parent of a preschool aged child, it all began with wanting him to learn how be part of a group and make friends. Along the way, we also hoped he would learn to follow the rules, take instruction from others, and learn how to be a good sport. What evolved was better than we could have ever expected because he discovered who is.
That he loves sports wasn’t exactly a mystery. I totally left out the part about 7 seasons of soccer and 5 seasons of basketball, the countless trips to the skate park and the endless hours out on the driveway shooting hoops with friends or tossing the football in the backyard. He discovered that he loved feeling strong, that he loved being active, and that he always had friends when he was part of a team. Catching in the Carolina heat, he learned early that he felt best when he made healthy choices for meals and that hydrating your body wasn’t just for game days. He also learned that in order to play his best, he simply had to get enough rest.
Then over time, like a gentle breeze blowing him into young adulthood, he found himself leading quietly, his skill speaking for him while he kept his focus on being a good teammate and respectful player. He’s interested in mentoring kids and being active giving back in his community. I’m confident this is directly tied to the life lessons he’s learned thanks to his experiences in team sports. Here are just a few of the many:
1. Come prepared. Nowhere is this more obvious than for a catcher. When our son takes the field, he is covered from head to toe in protective gear ~ thank goodness ~ as he plays a key role that can determine the outcome of the game. He calls the pitches and relays signals for the Coach to the Pitcher. He can see the entire field in front of him, knowing at all times what the opposing team is doing. He has the ability to throw runners out who attempt to steal bases and he can stop them at the plate before they even leave the batters box. He arrives ready to defend the plate and help steer the ship. He comes prepared and ready to play hard.
2. Respect authority. When our son aged out of his Little League, he returned the following fall as an umpire. It was amazing to see the temptation on the part of both parents and coaches to question his authority when calling a close play. After all, he was just a teenager right? No, actually he was the Umpire, wearing blue, holding a counter and making the calls and kids and grownups alike knew that the ball stopped there. Every now and again you run across a coach that doesn’t gel with the kids. Maybe he is too abrasive or loud. Maybe he underestimates their collective talent. Or maybe its just not a good fit. After having so many coaches and different teams, seeing this from the other side brought it full circle for our son, reinforcing for him why respect matters, even if you don’t agree.
3. Honesty Matters. Once in a blue moon your player could be asked by an umpire or coach to comment on the play. “Son did you touch the bag?” “Son did the baseman tag you?” Your child is faced with the ultimate test…to tell the truth or take advantage of the opportunity and grab the run. Tempting as it may be, the only choice is an honest answer and its a life lesson that will define your child forever. If they don’t answer truthfully, they’ll never forget they lied.
4. Play fair. There is nothing worse than an opponent full of attitude, talking smack, and just provocative in their play. While its tempting to return the favor, learning how to rise above the lowest denominator and play fair is a test of character that needs to be won. Life isn’t fair but that doesn’t mean you play dirty. You play fair and in the end, even if you don’t win the game, you set the bar for sportsmanship.
5. Sometimes you lose. Championship game, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, 2 outs, 2 strikes. There’s not a Mom I know who doesn’t cringe about this scenario and if your child plays long enough, chances are you’ll have to walk them through it, often with comfort. You see baseball is a game of losses. You get it right 3 out of 10 times ~ that’s a huge failure rate. But when you get it right ~ its brilliant. So you learn to lose, to leave it on the field, to know that tomorrow is another day, and always know that with each new game, anything can happen. I can’t think of a better way to teach why a positive attitude focused on what you CAN do will make all the difference in your future.
We are proud of the young man our son has grown into and cannot take credit for the lessons he has learned. He’s had the blessing of a wonderful experience in team sports most often led by people who we can’t thank enough for their positive impact on his outlook and values. He will carry into adulthood more life lessons than we could have ever taught at home and that is a gift that will last a lifetime. What life lessons have your children learned through team sports?
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SUBWAY® Baseball DeSIGNS. The opinions and text are all mine. The $500 Gift Certificate Giveaway Contest runs from August 19 – 28, 2011. A random winner will be announced by September 1, 2011. Official Contest Rules.
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