Youth Baseball and Life Lessons
About five years ago, I was coaching my Little League team in a game we were winning and I yelled some encouragement during one inning when the other team was recovering. My catcher called timeout and went to the mound to talk to the pitcher. Before he knew it, the entire infield was on the pitcher’s mound. I just watched and saw all six of my players chatting and nodding. This lasted much longer than one might expect. Especially considering the age of the children. I was surprised at how well they communicated with each other. I remember thinking to myself that this is what youth sports is all about. Watching children grow up in front of our eyes. So I decided to write what I think are some important life lessons kids can learn from baseball. And remember that for each coach or team this will vary.
One of my biggest annoyances in today’s world is lack of or simply not knowing how to communicate with each other. A famous actor once said that 90% of life is just showing up. As I’ve gotten older, this has become more true each year. He would add that 90% of life is simply presenting yourself and communicating with others. How many times have we seen people who do not communicate correctly? It can be a real estate property or any commercial transaction. It can also be between two countries. Most of the time the lack of communication will bring negative results. On the baseball field, good communication will bring good results. And coaches and parents shouldn’t worry about the young age of the players. We coaches have to teach our players how to communicate properly on the baseball field. Whether it’s a fly ball inside the field, acknowledging a bunt signal from a coach, proper communication on the baseball field will continue into everyday life.
2) Follow the rules
Our society is full of rules and laws. Sometimes I think there are too many but this is the world we live in. I have also observed that we have somehow drifted away from the structure. We can be flexible in the way we do things, but I have found that in sports the best results come when rules are set and players are conditioned to follow them and play and practice in a structured way. In professional sports, you will find the best athletes in terms of organization, leadership and rules. Coaches can enforce rules diplomatically but harshly. The rules of the game also have to be respected and followed and the sport does it. Teaching young athletes to play by the rules will be a solid foundation when they get out into the real world.
3) How to deal with pressure
I have seen many parents who do not want their children to be exposed to any degree of pressure. They will make any excuse on purpose so that their children can overlook the most pressing situation. I think this is a mistake. One example I’ll give is that most youth baseball leagues don’t have true parity. Most coaches and parents will always try to get the upper hand when choosing teams. They don’t think about having a loaded team and they think it’s better to go 20-0, win every game 10-0 and win the league championship. Does this make your kids better ball players and prepare them for adult life? Wouldn’t it be more helpful for young people if they were sometimes asked to act under some pressure and a little toughness? Wouldn’t the leagues be better if the teams played their share of one-run and two-run games and extra innings? When they are adults, they will not have to act under pressure, be it a presentation to their superiors or perhaps emergency surgery. As a father and coach, I never wanted my children to always take the easy way out.
4) Overcoming errors
Every day, most of the human beings are bound to make a mistake here and there. People in the medical profession rarely have the luxury of making mistakes. Mistakes are always made in sports. A bad shot, a hold call on a 3 and 1 play, a missed free kick. If you follow sports, you’ll surely recognize that one of the things that sets the best athletes apart is that they can bounce back from mistakes. Part of our job as youth baseball coaches is to instill in our kids that if you make a mistake, forget it and move on to the next pitch. The worst thing an athlete can do is carry a bad turn over to the next turn. Imagine the best trial lawyer in the world losing a case and resigning from the law? Great lawyers will assess where and what they did wrong and overcome these challenges next time. Youth baseball should do the same. A player who strikes out his first three at-bats may be in a position to win the game with a hit in the final inning. Sport teaches this to children and we have to reaffirm it over and over again. You can get over your mistakes.
5) Respect for people
In major league baseball there are brush pitches, hard slides, and other difficult parts of the game. For the most part though gamers still respect the game. We have to teach young baseball players to also respect the game. This includes teammates, parents, referees, etc. We’ve all seen the 12th best player get up in a situation where the team needs a hit. Our job is to get his teammates to support and encourage him. And it’s not the most satisfying when a lesser-talented player gets a big hit or makes a play down the field. Once we teach players to respect the game of baseball, they will also lead them to respect not only themselves, but also others in society.
Baseball teaches a lot of things and we have to keep everything in perspective. But we also need to challenge these young players in different parts of the game so that they also become better citizens in the world.