Written by David Bernstein, MD, FACP, FACG Friday, 16 October 2009 00:00
In our frenetic world of multi-tasking with its endless exposure to 15-second snippets of useful and useless data, we have managed to create an environment of significant anxiety, short attention spans and poor personal communication skills. In no population are these behaviors as prevalent as in our youth. How many parents out there have been told by their children or have told their children, “don’t call me, just send me a text.” Throughout this chaos, team athletics stands out as a way to foster many of the skills that our youth are losing.
For decades, Little League baseball, first available to only boys and now available to boys and girls, has been an excellent way of promoting communication skills as well as fostering a sense of community in our towns. I can still remember playing games against many teams filled with my friends from fourth grade. We competed, we tried to win and at the end of the game, some of us were happy, some were sad but we were all friends. We went to school the next day with bragging rights and we talked about playing again. Our parents, although boisterous during the games, knew that it was just a game and that none of us were going to do this as a career. More than 40 years later, when we get together, we still fondly remember some of the hard-fought contests and we laugh together. As in years past, the guiding principles of little league are unchanged and are as follows. “Little League is a program of service to youth. It is geared to provide an outlet of healthful activity and training under good leadership in the atmosphere of wholesome community participation. The movement is dedicated to helping children become good and decent citizens. It strives to inspire them with a goal and to enrich their lives toward the day when they must take their places in the world. It establishes the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play.”
The words stated above have important meaning. “Little League is geared to provide an outlet of healthful activity.” This is a wonderful ideal. “Training under good leadership in the atmosphere of wholesome community participation.” Let’s emphasize the community participation and overall inclusive nature of this principle. “Dedicated to helping children become good and decent citizens.” Interesting, not dedicated to making the players professional baseball players. “Establish teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play.” Perhaps this is the most important principle and as stated, it is not based upon winning at all costs.
Can you imagine what would happen to little league baseball if the people entrusted to run the organization lost sight of these basic tenets? What if leadership forgot about wholesome community participation and decided that it was better to limit participation to only the good players and have them play not against other children in their own community but to have them travel to other towns to play people that they do not know. Is that dedication to children and their community? What if those same leaders stratified these travel teams by skill and then had the self-labeled best team in town not play the best players from other towns so that they could have a winning record. Does that sound like good sportsmanship or fair play? What if the same leaders had the number 2 team play the best teams from other towns knowing that they would be humiliated in every game? I am not sure that this has the best interest of our children at heart nor does it qualify as good sportsmanship or fair play.
Most readers and I would agree that the scenarios described above are so ludicrous that they could not occur. No parent in their right mind would either propagate such behavior or willingly expose their children to it. We are the role models that our children follow and we strive to set good examples for our children and for our communities. Yet, despite all that, this behavior does exist in at least one of our Long Island communities.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions represented are those of the author and meant for informative purposes only. For your specific questions, consult your physician.)