As Americans, we love stories of scrappy underdogs, and surprising comebacks.
This is not one of those stories.
My son is playing baseball this year. He played in a coach pitch league last year that wasn't very helpful in terms of teaching fundamentals. This year, though, he played in different league that was a little more advanced, and where kids pitched. Instead of giving five strikes, and letting everyone get a turn at bat (no outs), this year, kids were striking out and being thrown out.
Of course, we're talking about kids that are 9 and 10. So, really, the only way most of them are going to advance is by stealing on wild pitches. However, the ability to throw and catch was also very important in terms of playing the game.
The five teams were put together by a method that I'm not entirely sure about. It was fairly clear that my son's team was made up of all inexperienced players. Only one of them had played in this league before. This fact became painfully obvious when they played their first game. As they played the other teams, it was clear that the Rockies were going to lose. Every. Single. Game.
All of the other teams had a mix of players, and it was evident that they had practice at some of the fundamentals — and that many had played in this league before. Anyway, their team is the only one left out of the playoffs, and they will finish the “season” without a win. (Well, I suppose they could win tomorrow, but I highly doubt it.)
But, throughout the season, my son has learned two valuable life lessons:
- Sometimes life is disappointing: He already knew that we don't always get what we want. However, he had never really been part of a failed enterprise before. After feeling the great hopes of winning a game, they progressed to just hoping to get a few hits, and maybe play a few innings where they didn't have to rely on the 8-run mercy rule. All of the kids became acutely aware halfway through that they were no match for any of the other teams. The disparity in skill level was so large that no matter how hard the kids worked, they would never stand a chance.
- Perseverance is important: Even though the season was clearly a lost cause, many of the kids still worked hard. My son practiced almost every day, working to improve. Many of the kids on his team showed marked improvement. It wasn't enough to win, but they did manage to get through some of the innings without requiring the mercy rule. They got a few hits, and they played to the end of the season. It would have been easier to just quit, but my son has learned the importance of finishing what you have started, and fulfilling your commitments — even when it seems you won't receive the reward you would like.
In the end, my son did finally score a run (and they gave him the game ball for being the only person on the team to score that game). After a pitch hit him in the face, and after hitting the ball and being thrown out at first, and failing to steal a base at one point, he finally managed to make it home.
Sometimes, we have to battle through failure and disappointment. It's not easy. However, in a world where too few kids grow up learning how to deal with failure, and how to weather disappointment, learning these lessons early is important. In fact, few kids these days are exposed to the lessons learned from failure and disappointment, and few have the will to persevere and try hard in the face of difficulty. It's just too easy to give up — and too often others excuse the behavior.
While this baseball experience has been painful for me to sit through, as well difficult for my son, it's been valuable. And, later, my son will know how to handle life's downs, as well as enjoy its ups.