When my husband started a baseball academy a little more than a year ago, he told me that besides teaching young men the way to play the game, one of his other goals was to teach them about integrity and other valuable life lessons about how to conduct themselves. The boys in his organization range in age from 9-12. These are tricky years regardless, and can be even more challenging when you throw in high-level competitive sports.
This past weekend, in the state tournament, the youngest of the crew had the opportunity to learn a tough, but important lesson. The other team was in a situation where a player had to leave due to a family emergency. Unfortunate, yes, but because of the way they had submitted their lineup, that meant an automatic out every time that batter was due up. We pointed it out to the umpire, who enforced the rule. Because of that, the other coaching staff became belligerent, verbally abusive and completely unsportsmanlike. For whatever reason, the umpire decided to favor the other team as a result, leaving our team in an uphill battle. Balls were being called strikes, outs were being called safe – it was messy and ugly and our boys were frustrated. This went on for the final innings of the game, and in the end, our team lost by one run, knocking them out of the tournament.
But, upon reflection and further discussion, what made me incredibly proud was the manner in which our team conducted itself. Our team went out and played its best without questioning or arguing. Our coaching staff (my husband included) was being berated incessantly, but kept their cool and stayed focused. I think because of that, our boys realized they needed to do the same, and did.
Afterwards, the boys asked tons of questions and had even more incidents to relay. But what stood out was that most of the boys I talked with had the game in perspective. None of us had an answer for why they chose to behave that way, we just knew they did. We reminded ourselves that we’re all human and make mistakes. Two things bubbled up for me in my discussion with my son. Since we all make mistakes, we need to find a way to forgive those involved – God is in control of it all, even a baseball game – and things have a way of working out in the long run. And, when we find ourselves on the short end of the stick, how we respond says volumes. Our coaches and team remained calm, patient and focused and while it didn’t give them the win, they got a lot more.
My prayer is that each of us as parents looks at this, and other situations, and take this Scripture to heart. I’ve had to examine my own heart in the past couple days and really pray about the responses I made then and may make going forward. I realize over and over again that our children are looking at us to set the example for their behavior and what I’m modeling matters to their growth.
I believe that the standards my husband runs his academy by are high. And, I believe that because of that, our teams stand out from many in the crowd. The coaches run the teams with integrity and honor. I strongly believe that that life lesson means a great deal more than winning or losing.