My 10-year-old son had two goals at last night's baseball game. The first was that we would actually get on base when we were up to bat (which we hadn't in two games), and the second was that we would not be mercy ruled.
If you are not familiar with how elementary baseball works, mercy ruled means that if the other team is 10 runs ahead of you and you've played at least 4 innings, you can end the game. The reason it came about probably has less to do with mercy towards the baseball players and more about mercy toward the parents who are watching the game for three or more hours before this rule came into being. I, for one, am thankful!
The good news is, we met those goals. The bad news is, we still lost quite spectacularly. Brody had tears in his eyes after the game as he slunk off to the car. "I'm terrible! I don't even know why I play!" he snarled as he sat down - forcefully - in the car.
The truth was, as my husband and I pointed out to him, he did play well. True, he never got on base when he was batting, but he pitched a no hit 3 innings and he did a great job fielding.
Still, I do sympathize. Losing will teach him a lot of things, but it's not very much fun. I am not a huge sports person, but as I reflected on the game last night, I decided I was glad my kids played sports - even on nights when you only get one run.
Sports, especially team sports, teach kids a whole lot about life. Interestingly, they can be a microcosm that teach a lot of lessons on how a church should function.
Being on a team teaches a kid the game isn't all about them. It teaches them that each has a job to do and when you don't do your job, or worse, don't even show up, you let the whole team down. You learn your actions have a ripple effect on those around you.
You learn that you can't win - or lose - all by yourself. It takes a team effort. It doesn't matter how good of a player you are, you can't field the entire field or floor by yourself. You NEED your teammates.
You learn to rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those that mourn. There isn't room for big egos on a ball diamond if you want your team to play well together.
You learn to listen to your coach. Even if you can't see the whole field clearly - he can. If he tells you to run and steal the next base, if you don't do it or hesitate before running, you miss out on scoring.
You learn showing up for the game is important - being committed is important.
You learn to learn from your mistakes and not to beat yourself up. You dust yourself off and try again. You learn that while physical skills are important, your mind can be your worst enemy in an intense game.
You learn to not just be a good loser, but also how to be a gracious winner. Nothing is more off-putting than a gloater.
Although you probably won't find me sitting around the tv for several hours at a time watching ball games, I will say that watching my kids play and learn these life lessons has got me excited about sports!
~ Blessings, Bronte