What I Learned from a 12 Year Old

One of the coolest things I’ve done since moving to State College, PA is attend the Little League World Series. Held in nearby Williamsport for the past 67 years, it’s a unique event that brings the whole world to this small, Pennsylvania town.

Free admission and reasonable concession prices bring thousands each year to cheer on young athletes in their quest to become Little League World Champions. In an age when we hear so much negativity around youth sports, I loved the positive spirit that surrounded the games. Athletes exchanged good will gifts. Fans cheered for great baseball plays, regardless of which team made them.

Before each game the Little League code of conduct is read by a player and coach from one of the competing teams. And then their behavior actually matched their pledge—perhaps we should begin this practice at college and pro competitions?

My favorite moment of the day was when a young man from the Czech team (which did have a girl on it, by the way!) hit a homerun. As he crossed home plate the Canadian catcher gave him a high five! Yes, the catcher from the other team congratulated him! What maturity for an 12 year old boy.

This kind of response is lost among coaches and athletes whose performance is so deeply enmeshed with their personal identity. I should know, I was one of them. Perhaps that’s why I was so impressed with this young, Canadian catcher.

Sports are what we do, not who we are. When we get that mixed up, it leads to a host of problems, among them an inability to celebrate others’ success. One way to guard ourselves from this trap is to develop other interests outside of our sport. Maintaining a big picture view of life keeps us better grounded and guards us from allowing sport to consume us.

Connect regularly with friends who know nothing about sports. Take up a new hobby. Join a book club or small group at church. Suit your fancy, just do something to keep a big picture perspective.

Let’s get back to celebrating all that’s good and right about sports the way they do in Williamsport every August!