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How Sports Can Teach Life Lessons

Jeff Kamrath, former pro baseball player and current GameChanger employee, spoke to parents, fans, coaches, and players on opening day for the Central little league. In the excerpt from the speech below, he talks about how the lessons he learned on the field translate powerfully to everyday life:

They say that the experiences you have in Little League® or in youth sports in general can shape more than just your athletic career. “They” are right. “They” are oh, so right.

I’ll share two quick stories with you:

1. Mom teaches the best lessons in the hardest ways

I’d had a particularly bad day during my first season of machine pitch, or so I had thought in a seemingly important (at the time) baseball game. I was hitless, hadn’t run the bases, and all-in-all was in a pretty foul mood. My mom had told me that no matter the outcome, to stay positive and “get ‘em next time”. She also added that I’d rue the day that I showed any outward displays of anger (which should read: “spoiled brat-ishness”).

After my 3rd or 4th time at-bat in which I didn’t get a hit, I threw caution to the wind, as well as my helmet (it would have made for a heck of a touchdown celebration). In retrospect, I’ve never seen my mom move that fast before or since. Before I could say, “you’re outta here”, my mom was in the dugout, literally packing my bag and pulling me out of the game.

I have never been more ashamed. I also never did that again. I learned early on that while I was going to fail (and quite often it turned out), even spectacularly so, that reacting emotionally and publicly accomplishes little except letting everyone know that I was a spoiled kid who felt like I had the right to never fail.

2. The power of “Thank You”

I was walking the streets of New York City a few years ago when I saw a familiar face. It was one of my middle school basketball coaches. He didn’t recognize me (it had been about 18-20 years), though I knew him. I stopped him on the street and we chatted for 10 minutes or so. Towards the end of the conversation, he hit me with this, (and again, I have my mom to thank).

He told me that one of his most vibrant and vivid memories was the way I always approached him after each game, shook his hand and told him “thank you, coach”. He told me that those regular acts of thanks made him feel appreciated and respected for all of the hours he put into trying to prepare our less than stellar team during practices and in games. He also said that he’d never had another player show him that level of respect after each game. I’d like to take all the credit on this one, believe me, but only one person can take it - my mom.

She always made me give out those handshakes and thanks after each game and, until that day, on the streets of New York City, I had never truly understood why. Sure, I did the handshakes and “thanks”  for years afterwards out of force of habit, but in that moment, I realized how valuable her coaching of me really was and she never had to step foot in a dugout, or on the sidelines.

Important things for Players of any age to remember

Sports in general have a unique and special way of teaching us important life skills. Whether you’ve struck out, made an error, failed a test, broke a promise, or fought with your parents or siblings, the same emotions and lessons are being tested and applied each and every day. And the more you have practice in dealing with those emotions, the better you will be able to handle them when they hit you at unexpected times in the future.

You see, you’re going to fail at something - lots of things actually. Guaranteed. You’re not going to get everything you want. You’re not always going to be special at everything you do. It’s not that it’s improbable, it’s mathematically impossible. And guess what? That’s okay. If you finish what you start, understand that failure is an opportunity to learn, and appreciate that parents, coaches, and teachers are just trying to help grow you, you’ll find success in whatever path you take.

No matter the age, we can all continue to practice perseverance, gratitude and humility, and what better way than sports to help facilitate that growth?

From GameChanger and Jeff Kamrath.

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