What They See

Sitting on the bleachers during a hot Saturday afternoon as the sun beams straight down on my head, or watching a group of five year olds from that same spot on a Wednesday evening as the sun hides her rays and permits a light breeze to tip-toe an appearance every now and again, I feel a dormant part of me wake up. I’m surprised at the butterflies dancing in the pit of my stomach, and I look down at the ragged nails giving up my secret to anyone who would happen to see.

I watch.

And I listen.

I watch the life-lessons that play out before me as little boys chase after a ball that’s rolled into the fence. Fair and unfair, good calls and bad; the ways games play out mirrors the ups and downs of life.

I listen to the cheers from parents celebrating a good hit, cries to Run! as growing feet round the bases. And I hear the shouts of disbelief exclaiming What are you doing?! to the six-year-old who sincerely does not know what he’s doing because, after all, he is only six.

I watch a coach who lets his frustration get the best of him, huffing and puffing, stamping his feet, yelling at a kid for a much longer time than it took to make the mistake. And I look as another coach brings one of his players aside at the end of the inning, teaching him what he did wrong and should do differently the next time.

I watch the faces who see the tantrums thrown by grown men when their little boys miss a play versus the self-control of their own father as he encourages number 21 with Good cut! even though number 21 plays for the other team. And I hope that even in their young age they notice the difference in character.

Because they do watch, and they do listen. I hope they see that hard work and discipline matter and that, more often than not, these qualities are rewarded, but they’re not always rewarded. I hope they hear how to model good sportsmanship with their words and see that how they play the game really is more important than who won the game. And I hope that they learn that now is the time to act like a child and not when they have one of their own. Because their children may learn more by what they see during Little League than by all the words their parents uttered at home.


Watching T-ball from the perspective of a parent, I was surprised to learn that I am not immune to the crazy feelings that can start to stir within during the course of a competitive game. However, I find it so important to quell those feelings and provide my children with a better example. How do you model good sportsmanship for the children around you? What other life-lessons have you learned from a sport?


5 thoughts on “What They See

  1. A coach is so important. Isabel was blessed to have a wonderful coach this last fall when she dabbled in soccer. The first game she spent it holding his hand, while he ran the whole time with her attached to him, showing her how to kick. She was the only girl in his team and he was beyond patient. As a parent I appreciated this so much, he'll never know. Because of him, my little girl had a great time in soccer. Thank you for this reminder of the great difference every adult can make in a child's life.


    1. What a precious picture in my mind of your little girl running, hand-in-hand with her coach! You are so right; a coach has the ability to make a huge impact on a child–good or bad.


  2. When Craig (HS football coach) and I started dating I was so surprised watching him coach because he never yelled at the kids. There was no finger pointing, no helmet slapping, no throwing things. He'd yell TO them, sure, raising his voice so they could hear them, but he never demeaned them, never pulled them from a game after making a mistake. Not only was it not his style, he said it wouldn't work. It wouldn't get him the results he wanted.

    This may not be where you were going with your post, but I think it's true. I don't think kids respond to bad coaching the way they do good coaching. And the good thing is the good coaches do so much more than win games. They make young children feel safe and let them have fun and they become great role models for young adults.


    1. Oh, I was going in a lot of directions today! That's why I love sports; parents, coaches, kids–we all can learn something in the process.People like your husband are so important. For many kids, their coach is the one person whom they can trust. Perhaps they don't do well at school, but they have the ability to excel in a sport. A good coach can take them to that level of achievement, and a great coach can build confidence that goes beyond the sport they are playing.I was curious as to your perspective because I know your husband coaches. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Good swing Jennifer! You kept your eye on the game, the whole game, where emotions can run high for both the parents (and grandparents) and the kids. the kids have feelings too. They know when they made an error or dumb play and although they may not be sure of how it effects the big picture, the outcome game, it affects them. How do I know? Because I once was a kid. As parents we need to show the kids that we are really into the game with them but the arm chair quarterbacking has to be kept to a minimum.
    Let the kid enjoy the game… and learn that if he gives it his all, 100%, that's what counts. If he continues to practice and practice the results will be evident…. and that goes for us parents too. Keep practicing and we can get better at it and show that we are parents at our kids game and not get down to the age level of a kid by having tantrums in the bleachers. (Uh Oh, I have a lot to learn.)


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