My wife and I have three kids in little league. Jason is 10 and plays on diamond 3. Sydney is 8 and plays softball on diamond 1. Heidi is 5 and plays t-ball softball. In addition, Jason and Sydney play on all-star teams. So far, so good.
There are so many lessons to learn from something as simple as little league. I fear that many don't learn the lessons that are offered: commitment, character, humility, meekness, integrity, perseverance and optimism are a few that come to mind. I'm sure our kids are learning all these things, too. But right now, I'm talking about the lessons that face my wife and I every day!
For instance, it is quite a commitment to put your kids in little league if you plan on actually supporting your children in it. We literally have had games almost every week night for the last couple months. My wife coached Heidi's team. Now with all-stars, we have different tournaments to travel to every weekend. In case you're wondering about the wisdom of committing that much to a game, that's where the character comes in.
Amanda (my wife) and I love sports. Love them. It actually requires discipline on our part to temper the desire to see our kids play well with the reality that sports are not the center of the universe. I've been told most tournaments don't start on Sunday until after noon. I must admit, I will probably be tempted to race out of church after Celebration to be there for the first pitch. I will fight that urge in order to make myself available to our flock, because that is more important. But the fact that I have to fight the urge proves how in love with frivolity I am. It reveals my half-hearted love for things of eternal importance.
In addition, our love for sports causes us to coach from the bench. Or from the car after the game. We are the armchair skippers. This leads us to humility and meekness. Amanda and I have to accept the fact that the coaches run the team, and they're probably not sitting up at night wondering how we like it. I'm sure everyone thinks their kid should be the star. Or at least a cloud. I'm sure everyone desires their kid to stand out. How is that not pride? Pride in thinking we could coach better, and pride in desiring our kid to be the star?
These proud desires lead to the next lesson, integrity. Do Amanda and I allow our children to hear us second-guessing the coaches? Do we contradict the valid things their coaches have told them? Are we thankful that these men give up so much of their summer to freely serve the kids on their team? And do we strive to treat them in a manner worthy of their position? We try to never say negative things about the team or how a game went. We always tell our kids to respect and listen well to their coaches. We have been told numerous times over the year that our kids have some of the best attitudes they've seen. We've even been told that our kids play well. That's cool, too.
That's where perseverance and optimism come in. Amanda and I try to teach our children to play well. Not to be the star. Not to get the applause. Not to play in the bigs. We want our children to play well for the glory of God. And if that's our motive, then our kids must look differently than the kids playing for their own glory, or the glory of their parents. This difference must be real and noticeable over a long season of games or even years of games to have any effect. Jason and Sydney must persevere in hustling when they feel like crying. They must persevere in leading when they feel like hiding. They must persevere in respecting authority when they'd rather question it. And in spite of our desire to see them be little stars, Amanda and I must train them and encourage them often to persevere in these things.
We are thrilled to see the fruit of these lessons in the lives of our children and in us as parents. People do notice. Jason has been complemented so often on his work ethic and optimistic attitude, as well as his awesome grasp of mechanics! Sydney has been called a joy to coach and watch, as she settles in behind home plate to catch. And yesterday as we were leaving, I heard Sydney laughing with the other girls saying, "Remember, it's illegal to leave without smiling." Silly, I know. But priceless as one more little league lesson.