April in Glenwood: Take me out to the ball game
When I was a little girl, around age 8 or 9, I wanted to play softball. I begged my mom to register me for the youth softball league all the other girls in my age range had seemingly signed up for in my small Hoosier town. She obliged, even though I wasn’t all that athletic. I spent most of my early childhood years tap dancing and dressing up Barbies, instead of playing catch and running bases.
So I was a little new to the whole America’s-favorite-pastime thing.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t so great at hitting. I was a little slow at running bases. And I didn’t have the quick fielding skills necessary to play in the coveted girl’s softball infield. I was placed out in the right field where I spent a lot of time singing to myself when I wasn’t joining in on the “hey batter batter” chatter to distract the opposing team’s batters.
I remember being especially good at that.
I may not have been an uber-talented ball player, but I did have fun being part of the team. Of course that’s what’s most important in youth sports, right? To go out and give it your best. And to ultimately have fun.
That kind of attitude can easily be translated to the real world later in life.
My best friend Megan has two baseball-loving, teenage boys who have played since they were hitting off a tee. In the double-digit years they’ve played, combined, she has always asked them the most important question of all after her boys came off the field. Did you have fun? Win or lose.
The answer has pretty much always been a resounding yes. Because baseball is a game, and through the eyes of a child, games are fun. As a new parent and step-parent, I promise my kids I’ll remember that long into my team-mom, or maybe stage-mom, years. No matter what they want to do or play, I hope the boys have fun and learn life lessons youth activities teach. An important one is there’s no “I” in “team.” Or club.
Sure, there are the valuable social skills honed when working together as a team. Participating teaches kids, and even adults who join teams and clubs throughout life, to cope with failure and enjoy success with a humble attitude. Youth sports and clubs can also teach discipline, sacrifice and a strong work ethic.
I definitely tried at softball, which I think is the most important take-away from the experience. Instead of most valuable player, I was the girl who won the best-attitude acknowledgments. I still have a memento my teammate Pam’s dad, Coach Willits, handmade for me. It sits on my dresser next to my softball team’s runner-up trophy from 1984 and a Girl Scout baking award. My favorite trophy has a marble base topped with a large nut painted black and two plastic eagles with wings spread next it. Perched atop the nut is a softball player with a ponytail at bat, and below is a silver nameplate with my number, 5, and the engraved words “Softball Nut.”
Yes, I was the team clown.
I guess comic relief has always been my thing. Especially when I had an audience. I’m guessing I used humor to distract my coaches and teammates from the fact I was less-than successful at playing softball. Sort of how I based most of my stand-up, and at one time this column content, to my dating failures.
My career on the diamond was short-lived. As I grew into my teens, I realized my chances of magically morphing into a competitive high school softball player were nearly impossible. Luckily I focused my efforts on tennis, playing in high school and college, which was a more organic athletic experience for me. It’s a game I still love, and hope to play well into my senior years. I also focused my efforts on joining French and art clubs and yearbook staff, and competing in Spell Bowl.
I struck out a lot less at spelling.
Like playing softball, participating in arts-centric clubs was an exercise in teamwork, commitment and dedication. And like a sports team, there’s no “I” in French Club. Or would that be “je?”
See, even French Club needs a nut.
April E. Clark loves taking Will to baseball games. He likes the action. He’ll be watching his brother play tee-ball this weekend. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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