I know from experience and observation that achieving proper perspective on the little league field is both crucial and difficult. Perspective is needed in a variety of areas:
Regarding Winning and Losing. I begin here because this is perhaps most difficult. Something happens when the scoreboard lights come on. Otherwise calm and collected people become intense competitors (I know that feeling!). When coaching little league, it’s sometimes hard to determine if the winning and losing is more about the adults or the children. I’m not one who believes in the proverbial participation trophy…I know there are winners and losers. However, perspective is needed. If not, we will sacrifice the hearts of children for a winning score. This is very difficult and I struggle with it every game.
Regarding Cheering from the Stands. I was blessed this year with a great group of parents on our team, so I’ll just brag on their perspective from the bleachers. I never heard a word of complaint toward an umpire, never a word of frustration with a player (even if it was their son), never a word of trash talk with the fans of the other team. All of this is how it should be. Thanks, parents, you were great.
Regarding Players with Little Talent. Let’s face it, not every player is good at baseball. Even so, perspective says that these children must be valued as people as much as those with talent. If you’re a coach, be sure to find ways to encourage them, help them, work with them, and allow them to feel as much a part of the team as the best player.
Regarding Players Who Have Great Talent. Let me just say this, I didn’t see any ESPN cameras at our games this year. One of the things I struggle with most is remembering that even talented players are still children. They don’t make every play. They still strikeout. They still lose focus. As a coach, it’s important to maintain the perspective that they are still children. Also, it’s importatnt to remember that little league success doesn’t guarantee future success. Only through learning fundamentals and a love for the game can a player’s talent be fully realized many years down the road.
Regarding Baseball in Relation to Life. I learned recently that a young boy in our community was diagnosed with leukemia. Our summer team spent time in prayer for him and, before we did, I reminded them of what is most important in life. Hint: it’s not baseball. Another hint: His name is Jesus Christ. Baseball is a great game and I love it. But apart from Jesus, I am nothing and baseball means nothing. He alone is my salvation and my sanctuary. Baseball is great, but Jesus is life.