As a volunteer coach, little league baseball is a tough business. The hours are long. The pay is next to nothing . . . well, it actually IS nothing.
Every year, you face the parent – sometimes more than 1 . . you know the ones!
“You’re a terrible coach!
You are doing it all wrong!
I don’t like the way you are coaching!
You are not pushing them hard enough!
You are pushing them too hard!”
The list is very, very long . . .
If you are winning, criticism in minimal.
If you are losing, what is in the hearts of the parents surfaces . . .
with a VENGENCE!
Lots of expectations. Lots of criticism. The cancer starts metastasizing . . .
Parents that think they have been wronged, or that their kids have been wronged, spread their message of dissension to other parents . . . looking for someone, ANYONE, that will validate their feelings.
The cancer grows . . .
It is easy to criticize. One does not have to know anything about coaching to do so. All that matters is voicing what they feel should be done . . . or not done.
It doesn’t matter if what they voice destroys team unity or starts problems . . .
All that matters is them. In their own narcissistic self-love and megalomaniacal behavior,
the center of the baseball universe revolves around them – and them only!
In my experience, these parents have several traits in common:
- They (which means their kids too) miss practice – a lot . . .
- They think their kids should play every inning . . . and even start regardless of the multiple practices they miss – regardless of the other kids that did not miss.
- The absolutely hate and reject consequences . . . there should not be any . . .
- When they miss, they don’t even have the courtesy to call in advance to say they will miss(in the working world, we call this a no call/no show)
- They rarely participate in team functions . . .
- They genuinely believe they are entitled . . . deserving of what they want.
- It is NEVER about the TEAM – it is ALWAYS about THEM and their KIDS.
Would you like to know some traits they do NOT have?
- They never thank you for keeping their kids safe in the most injured sport . . .
- They never thank you for teaching their kids baseball skills . . .
- They never thank you for teaching their kids life skills . . .
- they never thank you for the things YOU miss in your life to be there for THEIR kids . . .
The saddest part? Many of these parents are self-proclaimed believers . . .
It is with this in mind, that we are going to see if there are any biblical lessons we can learn about little league baseball. About coaching, playing, winning, losing, working hard . . . .
One of the things you hear every year from someone, is that calling something a mistake is negativity or negative reinforcement. Considering how absolutely and utterly ridiculous this is considering baseball has an actual term for this that is monitored and recorded called an “ERROR,” we will see if the text teaches about this and what we can learn from it.
One of the things I teach in baseball is that
You can’t address or fix a mistake until you first ADMIT you have made a mistake . . .
I will ask the kids after a loss if they gave their best. I will ask for a show of hands of those that gave their best. If no hands go up, I give them the following homework assignment due at the next practice:
“In the loss, what is the one thing that you learned that you need to work on?”
I tell them that if they do not show up with the homework assignment, they will only play the final 2 innings of the next game. A loss where they learn something from the loss is nothing more than a loss in the win column . . . a loss that they do NOT learn anything from, is a tragedy.
We are taught these principles in the text too. In many different ways . . .
Proverbs 10:17 (CJB)
17 He who observes discipline is on the way to life;
but he who ignores correction is making a mistake.
Proverbs 24:16 (CJB)
16 For though he falls seven times, he will get up again;
it’s the wicked who fail under stress.
But even more so, sin, in and of itself, is a mistake – an error. It is what separates us from God. If we ignore it or dismiss it as inconsequential, we will not reach the goal for which we are striving . . . the goal we are admonished to strive for.
We can not repent from our sins, until we first ADMIT that we have sinned . . .
WINNING (Giving our Best):
Every year, parents lament about winning. Why does there have to be scores. Why does it have to be so competitive? And this, not on a rec league team, but on a competitive baseball team!
The text has much to say about this concept too . . . much to teach us!
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (CJB)
24 Don’t you know that in a race all the runners compete,
but only one wins the prize?
So then, run to win!
25 Now every athlete in training
submits himself to strict discipline,
and he does it just to win a laurel wreath
that will soon wither away.
But we do it to win a crown that will last forever.
26 Accordingly, I don’t run aimlessly
but straight for the finish line;
I don’t shadow-box but try to make every punch count.
27 I treat my body hard and make it my slave
so that, after proclaiming the Good News to others,
I myself will not be disqualified.
The Rabbi Sh’aul (Paul) tells us that in our walks, we should run and fight to win the prize! We should run and fight with purpose! We should run and fight as if our life depended on it . . . because it does.
It is about doing your best . . .
Don’t give a half-hearted effort . . .
- I don’t run aimlessly
- I don’t shadow-box
Run for the prize!
- straight for the finish line
- make every punch count
- I treat my body hard
2 Timothy 4:7 (CJB)
7 I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
I gave my best!
If we give our best, we can have a clear conscience because we did our best.
Hebrews 13:18 (CJB)
18 Keep praying for us,
for we are certain that we have a clear conscience
and want to conduct ourselves properly in everything we do.
Here is a redundant question:
If every guy on the team gives their best for an entire game and loses,
is there anything MORE that you could have done to win?!?
You see, in reality, is not about winning.
It is about giving our best.
When we give our best effort, our conscience is clear win or lose.
Winning takes care of itself when we give our best effort.
Unfortunately, this is a negative part of youth baseball. As I stated earlier, many parents have this trait on baseball teams. It sucks the joy out of coaching . . . it is a parent or parents taking the focus off of where it should be (the boys) and putting it where it should NOT be: directly on the THEMSELVES . . .
The text deals with this too . . .
It warns us . . . and not very nicely:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (CJB)
1 Moreover, understand this:
in the acharit-hayamim (end times) will come trying times.
2 People will be:
- disobedient to parents,
- 3 heartless,
- hateful of good,
- 4 traitorous,
- swollen with conceit,
- loving pleasure rather than God,
5 as they retain the outer form of religion
but deny its power.
Stay away from these people!
Unfortunate, these “people” are parents on baseball teams every single year! People that are:
“self-loving (narcissistic), proud, arrogant, insulting, ungrateful, heartless, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, swollen with conceit . . .”
We are warned to stay away from these people! in the text . . . they are a cancer waiting to metastasize.
We are also given a command:
Romans 12:18 (CJB)
18 If possible,
and to the extent that it depends on you,
live in peace with all people.
Because of this command, and because my love for the Messiah I follow,
I answer hateful emails and personal confrontations with as much mercy and grace as I am able . . .
I do this, not because I am weak, but because the 2nd most IMPORTANT commands says:
“We are to love our neighbor as ourself . . .”
So I try to put myself in their shoes, give them the benefit of the doubt, and show them mercy . . .
regardless of whether or not they show me mercy . . . (which they rarely do).
I try to conduct my life in the way He did, and would, to the best of my ability . . .
We are told in the text,
Proverbs 1:7 (CJB)
7 The fear of Adonai is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
I try to teach the boys to give them baseball knowledge . . .
I discipline the boys to give them baseball wisdom . . .
The text is the principle that I guide my coaching, my life, and my actions by when I do this.
Imagine if the Rabbi Sha’ul had approached Messiah in the way that some parents want coaches to approach their kids:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (opposite of and non-competitive version) – Parody
24 Don’t you know that in a race all the runners are winners,
Everyone wins the prize whether he works hard or not – whether he does his best or not?
So then, no need to run to win – just have fun!
25 Now every athlete in training
decides for himself if he needs to practice or not,
because winning is too stressful – too pressureful
But we do it to just to play and have fun –
We should be entitled to the crown that will last forever
whether we show up to practice or not,
whether we work or not . . .
whether we do our best or not . . .
26 Accordingly, I run aimlessly
I rarely run straight for the finish line because it is too competitive;
I shadow-box and do not try to make every punch count because I do
not want to have to work that hard.
27 I treat my body easy and I am its slave
I might decide to proclaim the Good News to others,
but even if I don’t, It would not be fair if I am disqualified.
Sobering parody, huh?
I will leave you with this final thought:
Revelation 3:19 (CJB)
19 As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love;
so exert yourselves,
and turn from your sins!
I discipline these boys because I love them!
I correct these boys because I love them!
I push them to exert themselves!
I push them to give their best with no excuses!
This is the way I run my baseball team.
The lessons I use are the same lessons used in the text . . .
They are my model . . .
The only model worth following!
For those of you interested, here is a good letter written by fellow believer Mike Matheny to the Parents of his team: