Every spring, parents go a little crazy. They sit on metal benches for hours in the hot sun, sweating bullets. For dinner, they eat Sweet Tarts, stale popcorn, and nachos doused with fake cheese. They bear rain, wind, and sometimes even snow to watch their kids play the wild, fantastic Little League baseball game.
Pop-ups and foul balls keep them practically spellbound, as does the occasional strikeout. They cheer, hoot, and holler as eight-year-olds run bases at a glacial pace and slide into home plate, not because the catcher has the ball but because sliding is fun. They’re captivated even though Little League games can be long on walks and short on action. Here’s why: a child they love is out there playing, and that’s special.
But sometimes, parents take Little League and children’s sports too seriously. It can be easy to get caught up in the competition, the fundraisers, and the pressures of the season that some parents lose sight of the reason they’re there: to encourage their kids. It’s also important to encourage your children outside of playing sports. Here are some ways to be your child’s biggest fan.
Be a fan of having fun.
Children are first attracted to sports just for the fun of playing. Try to help them enjoy the experience. Urge them to make good friends on the team, host a team cookout, and celebrate wins. It’s also essential to encourage them after losses. Laugh about all the crazy things that happen during the season. The more children enjoy a sport, the more they want to play it.
Be a fan of character.
Of course, you’ll cheer when your child hits a home run or slides into second base. Still, be sure to cheer for more than that. Applaud hard work, courage, and being coachable. Compliment good teamwork and being respectful to the opposing team. Remember, a killer pitch or a perfect bunt is only beneficial for a season, but good character is helpful for life. Here’s a great character verse to share with your child. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Set an example for the believers in what you say and in how you live.”
Be a devoted fan, not a demanding one.
If you’re a fan, you are not a coach, even if you once played in the major leagues. Devoted fans don’t yell at the players; they shout for them. They don’t give pitching advice or scold batters for being nervous. They watch the game but don’t try to direct it. Instead, fans come to observe the action, applaud the effort, and share the moment with their kids.
Be a realistic fan.
While your child’s game is important, recognize that it’s not the final game of the World Series. In ten years, you probably won’t remember the score. You may not even remember the entire season. Here’s how you can keep youth baseball in perspective: remembering its goal.
Don’t be an out-of-control fan.
Being a parent in the stands isn’t easy. Watching your child struggle can unleash your competitive side and rekindle past pain or pride. So if you feel yourself boiling over inside, take a break from the game. Don’t let your emotions spiral out of control. Continue to evaluate your behavior throughout the season. If you say or do something disrespectful, then own it. Apologize to your child. Apologize to the coach or other parents. Remember, your child is watching. Be the kind of fan you’d want them to be.
Be a loving fan.
Your child must understand that your love does not hinge on a good performance and that a high score won’t change your love. Neither will game stats or batting averages. Make it clear that your love has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with your child. As you support your child in sports, pray with your child over the season. Pray to learn and to grow in love. As the Bible says, in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord make your love grow. May it be like a rising flood. May your love for one another increase.”
Be a hard-working fan.
Your child can’t play ball without your support. Your financial, logistical, and emotional help is needed to have a successful season. So buy your child a good glove and some cleats. Get them to practice on time. Work a shift in the concession stand or cut grass at the park. Be a team mom, or keep stats. Research shows that kids are more likely to have a positive experience when parents are involved in their sports activities.
Don’t be a trash-talking fan.
Baseball can teach children much more than physical skills. It can lead them to respect others, even when things don’t go their way. Set a good example by respecting the umpire, even if you disagree with the call. Be respectful of the other team—they’re just kids, after all. And show respect to the coach, even if you disagree with his methods. If you have a concern, call and discuss it after the game, not during the game. And if you must consult the coach with others, be kind.
Be a grateful fan.
Many children worldwide can’t participate in sports for one reason or another. Be grateful that your child has the opportunity. Be thankful for the numerous volunteers who work together to make the season possible. Be the gracious fan who appreciates players on other teams. Remember to thank the referees, the team moms, and the coaches at the end of the season. The more grateful you are, the more positive the experience for your child. Ephesians 5:20 reminds us to “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Be a fan no matter what.
After a crushing loss, find something positive to say to your child in the sensitive moments. Avoid pointing out faults or crucial errors. Remember, there will be other games and other moments. Even in the next round, how you handle a tough loss can make a big difference. But more importantly, it can make a big difference in your future relationship with your child.
Baseball season can provide rich memories and life lessons for your children. Remember to keep in mind who the game is for. Let the season be their defining point, not yours. And most of all, let your kids be kids and play ball.