Just a Thought: Lessons on life learned in little league

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Sometimes life’s simplest lessons can be learned from what we teach our youth. Be nice. Play well with others. Treat others as you want to be treated. Tell the truth. Don’t pull sister’s hair. Listen to your parents. Clean your room. Fundamentals we learned growing up.

If we listen to ourselves and practice what we teach our children, this world would be a better place.

Today I want to write about lessons learned from Little League. These lessons are from my Little League program when I was in fifth grade. Although the below lessons involve the children, they are directed towards parents and how they are to conduct themselves. Whoever wrote these rules was clever and understood human nature.

My wife and I have saved way too many items over the six plus decades we’ve walked this planet. We paid the price for keeping items when we recently moved into a new home. In going through stacks of what we saved I found a program from 1969 when I played Little League baseball in Venice Little League in West Los Angeles.

The program had the schedule for the season in the middle. It had a photo of each team along with a roster and a whole lot of advertisements. It showed me as a 10 year old and listed my name as “Ricky Kraft.” My dad was right next to me as the team coach.

I wore a “lucky” number 13 and still remember my best game was on a Friday the 13th. After reminiscing as I read through the program, I came to the back cover and reading it made me smile. A lot of life was summed up in the rules on the back page of the program.

The back page was titled, “Facts of Life of Little League.” It had ten rules for the parents of the Little Leaguers. I’ll share the rules with you along with my comments on them:

Rule #1. “The oldest players are twelve and perfection comes somewhat later in life.” I’m not sure perfection ever arrives at any age, but it definitely isn’t present at age twelve! We need to understand that despite best efforts, errors will occur. Don’t expect too much from elementary age children.

Rule #2. “Since there are at least twelve players on each team and baseball is played with nine men at a time, every boy can’t play all the time.” It is hard for any parent to see their child sit on the bench, but there will always be a time when someone’s child is not in the game.

Rule #3. “Since there are nine positions that must be filled, all boys cannot be pitchers.” Another impossible task for any coach. Only one boy can pitch at one time. Accept this fact of life.

Rule #4. “Only one team in each division can be the champion during one season.” I heard a talk by Lou Holtz once where he said his grades in high school made the top half of the class possible! One of the goals of the season is for the boys to work together to win games. This is what teamwork is all about, jointly seeking a goal. If the team did not have a collective measuring stick, it would be nine players all playing independently for themselves.

Rule #5. “The game is played with a baseball which is propelled by hand or bat at a rather alarming speed, so don’t be disturbed if a batter attempts to avoid being hit.” This rule is obvious and probably doesn’t need to be included on the list.

Rule #6. “You may spend your time at the game pointing out the ability of your son, but remarks about the less talented may not be well received by his parents and friends who are seated behind you.” I think this is very important advice. Everyone has an opinion. Sometimes it’s better not to share it. As a general rule, if you would share it with the person or family of the person you are commenting on being present, share it. Otherwise, you should keep your thoughts on other’s children to yourself.

Rule #7. “The umpires are handicapped by being so close to the play, but the rules do not permit them to sit in the stands where correct calls can be observed so readily. Please bear with them lest their sensitive natures be offended to the point of asking you to leave the stands. Cheer! Don’t jeer.” I get a kick out of this one. It’s so much easier to criticize than to be the one taking action while being observed by others. I used to head up a men’s church basketball league. One of the sanctions we used for players who didn’t respect the officials was to force them to officiate themselves.

Officials miss calls. One of the lessons that Little League teaches is to respect authority, even when it may be wrong.

Rule 8. “Do not offend the mothers in the snack bar, as we don’t pay them, and they are demons when aroused.” Good advice. There is nothing like encountering an angry mother.

Rule 9. “We recognize that we are making mistakes: and if you will mention them to us, we will see to it that you are on the next Board of Directors.” This is the best advice of all. If you chose to be critical of the leadership, then put your feet where your mouth is. Step into the leadership and see if you can do it better.

Rule 10. “We would not have this beautiful field without the hard work of a few volunteers in the interest of your youngster. Be sure to thank the Field Manager and offer a little of your time, so the boys will continue to have a nice ball park.” At the end of the day, any successful organization needs individuals who work behind the scenes. Don’t forget those whose acts are often unnoticed but are critical to making the organization a success. The work of those in the background allow those in the limelight to thrive.

There you have it, ten rules from 43 years ago that still apply today. Advice to parents of children that we all should heed.

My challenge to you is to learn from these rules of how to conduct yourself around children and other parents. Although some of them go against human nature, pause and follow these rules in your day to day living and the world will be a better place.

You don’t have to be at a Little League game to learn how to be nice in how you treat others. Sometimes everything you need to know to add value to others and to yourself you learned in kindergarten.

Just a thought...

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