Little League sportsmanship and humility

Things don’t always go as planned, which is fine. Sometimes we need a monkey wrench thrown in the mix to help us see that everything isn’t necessarily going as smoothly as we think. As I mentioned before, I’m coaching a Little League team this year, and we’re actually doing really well. Before Friday’s night game, we were 6-0. But that night, we were handed our first loss of the season by the last-place team in the league.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not at all upset about the loss. Our kids played hard, they played well and they did everything we asked of them. The other team simply hit it where we weren’t. It was a solid game that went into extra innings and our kids gave it everything they had. The officiating was inconsistent, but that’s one of those things you don’t have control over so I’m never going to complain about it. My only problem with the game was the sportsmanship of the opposing parents.

Keep in mind, these kids are 11 and 12 years old, play in the instructional division of the city league and some have never even played baseball before. (There’s a competitive division above our team that I hear gets pretty intense.) Having played sports all growing up, I don’t mind some banter between players, it’s never personal and it’s mostly playful. I believe the line is crossed when the parents start taunting and heckling players. Several times, opposing parents mocked players for swinging at bad pitches and not making plays. A couple of kids were in tears before they even reached the plate. My blood boiled every time.

Quite honestly, I didn’t handle it that well either. Up to this game, the parents have been positive and encouraging, especially because we play in the instructional league so expectations aren’t incredibly high. My inability to keep a level head from the taunting and mocking may have rubbed off on the players and made them tense on the field. I have to be better

Despite everything, I couldn’t have been more proud of our group as they fought back from a deficit the entire game to force extra innings. As the season has been going along, the kids have gotten a bit arrogant about winning, and winning big. I felt like we needed to lose a game if they were going to be willing to keep getting better.

As much as I hated losing as a player, I don’t mind it as much as a coach, because it makes for better opportunities to teach the players. But as much as I’ve been able to teach the players this season, I’ve probably learned more than anything I could ever teach them in a single season.

Photo by Brigham Berthold

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