Anyone check out the Little League World Series over the weekend? If you missed it, you not only missed some terrific baseball, but also numerous examples of great sportsmanship amongst the teams. Japan beat a very tough Tennessee team for the Little League World Series championship, but perhaps the coolest thing was throughout the tournament players from all the teams involved in the tournament showed an uncharacteristically high level of sportsmanship. Probably the best examples I saw included witnessing pitchers go out of their way to shake hands with batters they plunked with wild pitches, and several of the California players slap hands with Lorenzo Butler after he hit 3 mammoth home runs against them.
Sportsmanship, especially in youth sports, is often talked about but rarely witnessed. For example, in most cases where a pitcher hits a batter in Little League, the pitcher will pound his glove or kick dirt — not walk over and shake the hand of the kid he beaned. And when a kid hits 3 HR’s against a team, you rarely see him being congratulated by anyone other than his own teammates and coaches.
I’m not sure if the folks at Little League Baseball gave specific instructions to the teams this year about the importance of sportsmanship, but it was sure nice to see it happen on more than one occasion. So often we get caught up in the competitiveness of sports that we sometimes forget about all the life skills and relationship building that can also be learned while competing. Sport psychologists often study youth sports from not only the lens of mental toughness and enhancing athletic performance, but also from a life skills perspective so that we can all help make youth sports a safe, fun, and meaningful experience for all participants involved. Kudos to the folks at Little League Baseball for a job well done this year (although you might want to move those fences back a little for next year!).
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