Little League baseball is an American family tradition. You yourself may even look back on your own experiences with a nostalgic warmth. Do you want to provide that same experience for your own children? How can you explain to them why it’s such a great pastime?
Parenting is full of choices. Some of these choices are fun and some… not so much. One of the more challenging choices for some families is how to get your kids out of the house, get some exercise and join in with something. Sports is great exercise and socially very rich, but it can be a tough sell to the kids.
Modern children have a distressing tendency to stay home, or stay at a friend’s home, indulging in the new entertainment technologies that the 21st Century has to offer. But we all need to get outside once in a while and interact with people who are not made of pixels on a computer screen or TV… right?
It may be that there is a strong tradition of sports in your family, if so, this isn’t something you will ever really have to think about. Sports is an automatic part of your life. But what if that’s not the case? What if your family never really engaged in sports, but you think it might be a good idea? What are the real benefits of something like Little League?
Family Sports Tradition
Let’s start with a little history. Little League was founded by Carl Stotz in 1939 as a small league in Williamsport, PA, and started composed of just three teams. Over time it has grown and spread in popularity into a nationwide league and the largest organized sports organization in the world. Children between the ages of 4 up to 18 years old can participate in the league.
It’s well known that many Little League baseball players leave the league to go to high school and continue to play. Sometimes they even go on to play college baseball and turn professional. It’s potentially a career path for those talented and enthusiastic enough to pursue it.
So it’s recognized that Little League is organized, healthy and potentially can result in high earnings way down the road. But these notions may be meaningless to a 4 year old going into the program. How can you sell it to children that this might be one of the most rewarding things they ever do?
Why Play Ball?
First of all. there’s the fitness aspect. We call it “exercise”. Children call this “play”.
As adults, we know that there are some alarming statistics on childhood weight problems. Some say as many as 30% of the child population is obese or overweight (Source: Trust for America’s Health). Even without the statistics and scare stories about weight, it’s obvious that active kids are healthy kids. You need some reason for them to get outside. Bottom line, baseball keeps kids active and the game itself is play.
Another worthwhile upside of taking part in a sport that is watched by others is confidence. Children love to be watched showing off that they can do stuff, showing mastery of their world. But staying in too much damages their social skills and makes them uncomfortable being observed by people. Playing ball in front of an audience gives them confidence, and even makes them enjoy attention. This feeling of confidence and self-awareness can carry over to the rest of their daily life.
In addition, being out there on the field is a potent lesson in teamwork; you can’t win a game on your own. You have to work with others, enjoy the company of others and begin to learn how to get along with other people. This is a positive and a negative. Rivalry in groups can cause friction and difficulty. Learning to get past these problems and forge friends from rivals is a valuable life lesson.
And finally – although it’s in danger of fast becoming an archaic concept – there’s the idea of sportsmanship. In this day and age of instant gratification and sore losers, it’s vital to educate kids in the ideas of winning and losing. But also doing so with grace. Yes, that is a slightly old fashioned concept, but is it a meaningful one worth perpetuating? Absolutely.
You can even make it a family bonding exercise if you yourself get involved in organizing the local league, or just helping out as a volunteer. It’s a great way to spend time with your kids, get to know other kids and parents in your area, and generally provide the glue that keeps people together working for common goals.
Whatever you decide to do, and however you end up pitching it to your children, Little League is packed with good stuff for kids to learn and grow. It will be something they will, like you, look back on with pride and warmth.
Oh, and it’s really good fun!