Little league sports have started. Local parks are filled with teams of all ages playing baseball, softball and soccer. Young parents and grandparents lug their lawn chairs around from field to field to watch.
For the youngest participants, it is sometimes their first athletic experience. I spent Saturday at a T-ball game for my 4-year-old grandson and a soccer game played by my oldest grandson, who is 12. As I watched these games I could not help but reflect about how quickly sports change lives.
At the T-ball game you could not find a place to park. It looked like the Royals were playing in another playoff game. The areas around the fields and concession stand were full of parents trying to take care of siblings of the players but also trying to take pictures of the T-ballers on the field.
Hundreds of grandparents with their faithful lawn chairs were trying to find shade. T-ball players were coached by their coaches on every hit ball – in a positive way. Half of the players in the field were either playing in the dirt or picking dandelions in the outfield. The entire area was full of positive chaos.
The highlight of the game was the treats handed out at the end of the game by moms attempting to make sure each player on the team received their snack and drink. After the game, coaches, parents and grandparents complimented every player on their great play. Good stuff!
The soccer game of my 12-year-old grandson was a totally different experience. There were a few parents and grandparents at the game, but certainly no crowd and no picture taking.
The entire focus appeared to be that the game ended with a victory. Just a minute or so into the game and fans began to holler about calls made by the officials. Parents seemed uptight with every kicked ball. On just about every play the adults in the crowd offered opinions on how the ball should be played. The constant noise went on the entire game.
If two players collided, parents would shout for the official to give a card, or it was a clean play, depending on which side you were rooting for. The players worked their tails off throughout the game. The coaches were very intense and seemed to be positive in most cases, but the positive outlook was not at the same level that I saw at the T-ball game. The kids were still having fun – I think?
The one thing that appeared to be missing with the older group of players was unconditional joy for each player for their effort. It is a shame that we lose perspective so quickly. Kids should be able to enjoy the camaraderie of participating in a team sport.
It really does not make any difference if you are on a professional team or a T-ball team – you need to love to play a game with members of your team. The friends I shared sports with during my life are some of my best friends.
Whether as a player, coach or parent, the experiences you share with your teammates will last a lifetime. It is a natural progression to become more competitive with a dog-eat-dog mentality, but it just seems to surface earlier and earlier.
Competition is very good to experience and learn to cope with at a young age, but even more important is to learn to work with others toward a common goal. I realize that sports cannot be filled with T-ball treats at the end of a game, but it is still extremely important to keep it real and positive.
Only 0.1 percent of the kids playing on those youth sports teams have a chance to make a living as a pro, but you will have some of your T-ball friends for the rest of your lives. PS – at age 66 I still like T-ball treats!
• The Royals are starting to come out of their offensive woes. It does matter if you have good or bad pitch selection. You cannot make a living in the major leagues if you are behind in the pitch count.
• My quote of the week comes from English writer William Hazlett: “Where you cannot drive you can always persuade. A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.