A story is told about a little league coach who pulled one of his young players aside and asked him, “Do you understand what cooperation is?” The boy nodded yes. Then the coach asked, “Do you understand that what matters is that we win together or lose together as a team?” The little boy again nodded yes. “So,” the coach continued, “when a strike is called or you’re out at first, you don’t argue or curse the umpire. Do you understand that?” Again, the little boy nodded. “Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain it to your mother.”
It happens, doesn’t it? In the heat of the moment, when emotions are flying and tempers are hot, it’s tempting to sometimes lose your patience and just unleash on whoever is around you. And quite often, it doesn’t even matter what the issue is. Did you see this story on the news? A fist fight breaks out at a Kentucky championship T-ball game. Embarrassing. Yet this is hardly a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence; and not something found only down there in those southern states. This past weekend, my family spent time watching my daughter’s recreational league softball team make their way through the year-end playoffs. In two separate games, against two different teams, we encountered obnoxious parents who were a bit too forcefully yelling at the girls on the field and screaming (even cursing) at the umpires. I remind you, this was a 10-year old recreational league for crying out loud! Yet at both games girls and parents were left in tears. At least one of them insisting she didn’t want to play anymore. Coaches left fuming. Umpires understandably offended and annoyed. Sadly, stories like this are much more common than you think. Coaches and parents raising fists, exchanging insults, and hurling threats because of severely misguided priorities. What is this world coming to? Such fools people are in the face of inconsequential things!
Far too often our social media news feeds highlight the shocking sins committed by a person for a reason so ridiculous it is hard to even fathom. It is silly the things that get us riled up as adults. Of course, you and I are just as guilty. It may not be a Little League baseball game for us, but what about when permanent marker shows up on the countertop or a new scratch appears on the car door? We’ve all blown the proverbial gasket and boiled over at relatively mundane and unimportant matters before. Oh, how many times God must just sit in the throne room of heaven shaking His head in repulsion at the misguided people He created? But back to our original illustration… the greatest tragedy is that the anger and resentment by over-the-top parents or coaches is when it is then reciprocated by the children. The rage of parents and overzealous coaches often filters down to the young athletes themselves. If the adults cannot control themselves, the likelihood of players following suit is inevitable. Soon young competitors are overstepping and ridiculing the umpires and referees themselves. This is a cautionary tale. Is this “winning is everything” really a message we want to instill in our children? Children take their cue from their parents, coaches, teachers. So what are we teaching them? What attitudes and priorities do we model?
Old Testament hero, Moses, reminds us what we should be stressing. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:5-9) Forget about winning baseball or softball games. The most important thing we should be teaching and modeling for our children—no matter how old they are—is a reliance and faith in the trustworthy, unchanging Word of God. This is the issue that matters most. Thank God there is grace for when we parents and grandparents misstep and forget that truth. May God grant to all of us a desire to diligently teach our loved ones to love the Lord.
“Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps parents off the streets.” (Yogi Berra)