For the last several years I have spent part of my summer at my local Little League, volunteering my time during the tournament play season.
As a former Little Leaguer myself, you could almost say I live vicariously through these young individuals as they step into the batter’s box and take their places on the mound. The joy and fun that many of these kids exude has kept me coming back each season.
Yet, there’s always been one thing that has left a bad taste in my mouth when game time rolls around: adults who take each and every game too seriously.
Too many times I have seen a player reduced to tears because of something shouted from the bleachers. Coaches and managers lose their cool. It’s commonplace to hear an umpire being screamed at.
It’s fun to be competitive and win. Trophies are nice. A trip to Williamsport for the Little League World Series, the experience of a lifetime for a young player.
However, none of these facts changes that your child is probably not going to go on to play Major League Baseball. So why take the game too far?
Before each and every local tournament game, a pair of pledges are supposed to be recited in an attempt to remind all who are involved of why they are there.
The first is the Little League Pledge, which goes as follows:
I trust in God, I love my country, And I will respect its laws, I will play fair, And strive to win, But win or lose, I will always do my best
The second is the Parent / Volunteer Pledge. It says:
I will teach all children to play fair and do their best. I will positively support all managers, coaches and players. I will respect the decisions of the umpires. I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game.
According to their website, Little League Baseball says that the organization “assists youth in developing the qualities of citizenship, discipline, teamwork and physical well-being. By espousing the virtues of character, courage and loyalty, the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than stellar athletes.”
As local leagues and districts begin either hosting or sending teams off to tournaments, it’s important that the ultimate goal – to groom and develop young outstanding individuals and citizens – doesn’t get lost during the quest for baseball glory.
Win or lose, each and every player should be having fun, developing friendships and cultivating a love for America’s pastime.
Little League finishes their online identity statement by saying, “The outcome of a game will never outlive the pride of belonging, the experience of playing, the friends and the fun. The essence of Little League is the people, their communities, and the everlasting bond between them.”
Now, play ball.