Parenting Tips from the T-Ball Field
“Let’s Play Ball!”
This past Saturday, those words marked the start of the inaugural season of the North Valley Boys’ Baseball League for boys, ages 4 to 12. It has taken a tremendous amount of work, and it has been a tremendous amount of fun getting everything ready for our new church little league. The bright-eyed enthusiasm in each young man has been obvious, and the parents’ excitement has rivaled that of their sons. However, I realize that baseball, or any other athletic endeavor, is not the number one priority for a Christian child and family.
So, why did we make the investment of time and money to make this league a reality? Why did we spend hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars to start a baseball league? One reason, of course, was to use it as another tool to reach into our community and see folks come to know Christ as Savior. The response from our community has been very encouraging. Another reason was to help involve and tie in newer families in our church. Whether they are helping coach, bringing snacks, or working in the snack shop, it has been thrilling to watch many of our newer members get excited and involved in this new ministry.
One of the main reasons for this league was for the physical and spiritual development of the young men that God has entrusted to our care at North Valley Baptist Church and Schools. It has been said that “great oaks come from little acorns.” The “acorns” who are learning obedience, respect, teamwork, discipline, competition, and sportsmanship on the t-ball field today will be the “great oaks” in God’s vineyard tomorrow. It is our goal and prayer that this league will be used of God to impact, imprint, and instill valuable lessons in the lives of these valuable young men through the vehicle of baseball.
As one of the men in the church, who has already raised his son, put it: “When I was out there working with my boy on the field and in the batting cages, I wasn’t raising a baseball player, I was raising a man. Baseball gave me an avenue to spend time with my son and transfer principles to his life that he has carried into adulthood.”
For many of the families of our church, this is the first organized baseball league that their son has ever played in. So, this has been a learning process for the parents and children alike. As we prepared for the season, I put together a handout for the parents with some things to keep in mind to make the league as beneficial as possible for them and their sons. These thoughts are applicable on the field and off. I’d like to share with you some “parenting tips from the t-ball field” that I recently gave to our parents:
1. Play with your son!
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (Malachi 4:6a).
One of my goals in establishing this league was to help facilitate the opportunity for parents to play with their children. One of the most rewarding aspects of our league thus far has been that every time I pass the city park that is adjacent to our church property, I see different church families out in the field playing catch, batting, hitting grounders, and catching pop flies. This time spent together is so much more important than learning how to throw to first base. It is the binding of a child’s heart to his parent’s heart which will last beyond the final out of his baseball career.
So often, the busyness of life crowds in on our family time, and our children are grown and gone before we know it. If we are not careful, we have squandered so many opportunities to invest and involve ourselves in our children’s lives.
As a baseball coach, it is very evident which children have parents who are taking the time to play with them and teach them. May I say, as a Christian worker, it is very evident which children have parents who take the time to teach them and train them in the area of spiritual matters, as well. May each one of us redouble our efforts to give ourselves to our precious children on the field, but more importantly, off the field!
2. Encourage your son.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
I urged each parent to “find the good things your son did, rather than analyze every mistake he made after the game.” While there is a time for the negative reinforcement of a “kick in the seat” in the lives of our children, more often, a positive “pat on the back” will go much farther in accomplishing our desired training.
It has been said that a child should have heard tens of thousands of words of encouragement by the time he leaves our home. I believe this to be a wise challenge for every parent. Look for things that your children are doing well and encourage them. Praise their accomplishments, and let them know how proud you are of them!
3. Keep it fun.
Most of the time, when dealing with youth sports, it is not the youth you have to worry about. It is the hyper-competitive parent who is trying to vicariously succeed and relive his childhood through his son. I reminded the parents that “Dad’s reputation is not tied to how well your son plays, so ‘chill out’.”
As it relates to the Christian life, our children do not exist as a tool for us to impress others; and we should not force them to be the “star athlete” or the world-renowned evangelist. Allow them to find God’s path for their lives, not your path for their lives. We, as parents, should strive to relax and enjoy our children for who they are and how God has made them, not for who we wish them to be.
4. Let the coaches coach.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).
Athletics provide a great opportunity for Mom and Dad to cut the apron strings a little and entrust their son to the authority and supervision of coaches for a few hours. In my handout to the parents, I reminded them that parents should not run out onto the field in the event of an injury unless called out by a coach. In addition, they should not hover over the dugout, “coaching” their boy. That is what coaches are for. I believe it is good for a young man experience pain, defeat, failure and injury without his mom or dad being right there to immediately comfort him. It is all part of the growing and maturation process.
5. Educate yourself.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18a).
I challenged the parents to pick up a youth baseball-coaching book and search the internet for coaching instruction and proper throwing and batting technique so that they could be informed while working with their child.
To every parent, I would challenge you to pick up the “parenting manual,” God’s Holy Word, so that you can be properly equipped to train your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The fact that a parent has never played baseball is not an excuse for him not to be involved in the training of his child. In that same vein, the fact that a parent has never raised a child for God is not an excuse to neglect your spiritual leadership duties in the home. Read God’s Word, read good parenting books, and get counsel and instruction from godly leaders in your life so that you can have the knowledge necessary to properly train your “little slugger” for the baseball diamond of the Christian life!
Undoubtedly, there are many other thoughts and tips that I could have passed along to these wonderful parents who are seeking to involve themselves in the development of their children. These were just a few ideas that I thought might be helpful to them during this first season of baseball, and I hope one or more may be helpful to you as you work with the precious, eternal souls that God has entrusted to your care.