Sunday, December 25, 2011

Little League Baseball: Training The Next Generation For The Big Show

By Bruce Tulio

A rite of passage for many young Americans, Little League baseball is an excellent way of fostering teamwork and helping our young people to learn more about themselves. Individuals are brought together as a team to work towards a common goal. While one or two kids may excel, there are enough positions on the field for all the kids to join in. Little Leaguers learn a lot of skills and qualities, and are helped in this learning by the coaches.

Little League coaches are often portrayed in a bad light. Words such as favoritism, pressure and aggressiveness are too often used. Yes, there are bad apples, but most Little League coaches are wonderful people. Many coaches hold other jobs as laborers, office workers, teachers. Many are parents who understand the necessity of being a positive influence to younger people and who choose to volunteer their time and effort to pass on their knowledge of Little League to a new generation. These coaches value the importance of team work to everyday life.

Many Little league parents take for granted all that a coach and his assistances do. They coordinate schedules for practices and games. They make line-ups and keep records of every pitch, every hit. Some even go the extra mile and take the team out for pizza or ice cream after the game-win or lose. The most important thing that coaches do for kids is practice patience. Coaches often have to manage kids' emotions as well as their swings.

Coaching is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. Coaches can develop valued relationships with the players and parents. Little League can provide children with structure in their lives and the opportunity to meet great friends. I met some of my own best friends through playing baseball, and these are still friendships I enjoy today. I recall my own time playing Little League with much fondness. I remember too that my coaches were excellent and gave me the drive to succeed.

A lot of coaches don't seem to realize the effect they can have on the kids. I remember one incident when the coach from another team lost his temper about an umpire's call during a game. He and his team launched into a tirade at the umpire. Our team, however, remained calm and waited for it all to blow over. Yes, the call was unfair, but we kept in mind the words of wisdom from our own coach. It's just a game. Some people need to remind themselves of that.

All a Little League coach needs is a passion for the game and a desire to share that passion with others. Too many people who played Little League in their own childhoods, with big dreams of one day playing in the majors, now restrict their participation in baseball to sitting in the crowd as fans, or occasionally playing for their Beer League softball team. Rather than knocking back the beer, squeezing their out of shape bodies into uniforms, and reveling in past glory, they could be sharing their knowledge and helping children develop their baseball talent. This could really help those children who are naturally gifted in the sport but who don't have the support to nurture their talent.

My recommendation to you would be to get out into your local community and find out how to get involved in the Little league. Local leagues often need people to make the announcements and manage the concession stands, as well as coach the kids. This could be a way to support the Little League if you're not quite ready to make the jump to coaching. However you show your support, being able to share your affection for baseball with others will remind you why you love the game. You must love it or you wouldn't be paying forty bucks a ticket to watch those professional players do what kids pay to play.

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