In my childhood (and possibly yours) playing learning sports was a multi-faceted developmental experience. It started with my Dad introducing me by playing catch and providing some basic instruction. Too young to play in a youth group back then, I may also remember my Dad occasionally taking me to a nearby baseball field on a hot summer DominoQQ to watch a Little League baseball game. MostlyI remember the stop afterwards to get an ice cream cone. In elementary school, a gym teacher started our basic instruction in a variety of matches and sports that were modified. Games of all kickball during gym class and recesses supplied an enjoyable introduction to team sports. At seven or eight, I played in my neighborhood pickup baseball and football matches. Being one of the youngest, I just expected to receive an occasional chance to catch the ball and take some swings at the plate. I was grateful for the chance to play with older boys as well as part of this neighborhood group. As I grew and became a more accomplished athlete, my role increased–and this success just fueled my enjoyment and interest .

Learning to Become Self-Reliant

Nonetheless, it’s vital to understand these neighborhood games were much more than simply playing sports. They were also about figuring out how to interact with other children–without the assistance of parents or other adults. We learned the best way to recruit neighborhood kids, arrange the game, deal with disagreements, balance our individual competitive instincts against the requirements of others in the group, and otherwise manage the game so everyone wanted (or continued) to playwith. Many times, it was a balancing act to keep everyone satisfied and the game moving. Based on who was playing and our mood, the games highlighted either relaxed fun or more serious rivalry. But above all, we commanded our expertise –we learned to become more self-reliant.

A Complementary Role in Years Beyond

For all of us, the organized sports activities of our childhood were different, complementary experiences that helped fulfill our weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. In some ways, organized sports represented the formal test of our daily games and fun. We accepted these youth leagues were conducted by parents, more organized, and usually more competitive. It was an exciting, gratifying encounter –run by caring coaches who balanced competition, learning and pleasure. That is not to say that there were not moments of stress, anxiety, and boredom–or the occasional poor training. Attempting to tackle bigger boys was a frightening experience. While enjoying youth baseball, I also recall annually facing a pitcher who had an incredible fastball, but who also was quite wild. All of us were fearful of the pitcher, but knew that when we took sufficient pitches there was a good possibility he would walk us (but not struck us).

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