“How’s the crowd taking it?” That’s how my dad always joked when I got “hurt” as a kid playing ball. I rolled on the ground until I was sure everyone in the crowd was sufficiently concerned. Then, I rose dramatically to thunderous applause and moved on to my next responsibility. I was a hero and everyone knew it.

All joking aside, one thing I learned from 9-year-old players this year is that sometimes it really does hurt. More than that, they taught me how to deal with hurt, and the way they dealt with their physical pain teaches lessons that are transferrable to any pain you and I encounter.

Four steps to dealing with life’s pain, as inspired by the toughest 9-year-olds I’ve ever met…

1. Admit that it hurts. Getting hit with a pitch, taking a ground ball off the face, running into someone…contrary to what some folks seem to believe, these things are painful. When I addressed an obviously hurting player, they were given permission to feel the pain. How stupid would it be to simply say “I’m ok” and never address the fact that you’re bleeding or you just broke a finger or sprained an ankle? Yet, how many of us do that in life? Sometimes, life is downright painful, and only those who admit it can get the help they need to move forward.

2. Breathe. This is always the first thing I tell kids when I get to them after an injury. Inevitably, they are somewhat hysterical and aren’t sure what to do to fix the pain. Their breathing is frantic and they struggle to speak through the tears. So, I just tell them to breathe and slow down. Yes, it hurts. No, breathing won’t make it all go away. Even so, in order for me to help them, they have to be able to tell me what’s going on and where it hurts most. When life hits you with a fastball in the ribs, take a minute and breathe, slow down, and determine really where you need help most. It might take some time, depending on the severity of your life injury, but you can’t heal if you don’t stop to address it.

3. Receive the help that is offered. As a coach, I remind my players that there’s no need to be a tough guy when they’re injured. No, I’m not trying to turn young men into sissies who can’t handle the realities of life. What I mean to do instead is help them realize that sometimes they need someone to be there with them, to share the pain a little, and to help them get back up. Who has God put in your life to help you through it? Why would you not receive such a gift from God? Only the fool surrounds himself with no one, believing he has all he needs in himself.

4. Get back up and go at it again. I don’t wait for the pain to stop completely before helping a young man to his feet and encouraging him to keep playing. in some cases, the player’s injury is such that he must sit out the remainder of that game and possibly several more. Regardless, there comes a time when the player must push through any remaining pain and determine to try again. Only then will he overcome his fear of getting hurt again. As a coach, I will continue to ask him if he’s ok, but I will also push him to play, even when he’s scared. Sounds like life, huh? You and I cannot avoid the painful realities of life. But neither can we wait until all of our pain has subsided before returning to action and responsibility. Everyone is hurting. Everyone. The people who say they aren’t are either crazy or stupid. Sometimes you might need to go on the disabled list for a while, but I encourage you to get back into the action of life at some point. You can count on the sustaining grace of God to help you heal, even as you limp along.

Baseball hurts. Life hurts. I’m thankful for a bunch of 9-year-olds that taught me how to deal with it.

This is the fourth post in a series called “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from 9-Year-Old Baseball Players.” For more in the series, follow this link.