Lessons from a year of Little League

2008 is coming to a close, and so has a wild year for me with being a part of Little League. It had its share of high and low moments, but these always come with lessons. Here are the lessons I’ve learned during the past year.

Helping youth brings out the child in an adult. This isn’t always a good thing.

Working with children brings out the joy and playfulness we often lose as adults. Unfortunately, it can also bring out childish behavior such as possessiveness, temper, jealousy, cliquishness, whining, namecalling, bullying, and so on. We must always remember that we’re the adults.

Make friends.

Make friends with city and school district officials in charge of fields, reporters at local newspapers, presidents of other leagues, district officials, and even leaders of your local PONY league. The connections will make your life easier.

If a rule isn’t on paper, it isn’t a rule.

Make sure that all local rules and bylaws are clear, complete, and on paper. If rules are left to interpretation, this will lead to conflict and misuse. If the rule isn’t in the Green Book, Operation Manual, district rules, or local rules and bylaws, it isn’t a rule.

Don’t take it personally.

Part of your responsibility as league president is to give people someone to yell at. They will yell at you if their kid doesn’t get to be the starting pitcher, or the umpire makes a bad call, or that it’s too hot outside. (Yes, presidents have been asked if they can make it cooler.) Listen, but don’t take it personally. Sometimes all a person wants is someone to vent to. If they’re unhappy with a decision you made, let it go. You won’t please everyone.

Be the one who comes up with solutions.

Don’t bring a problem unless you come up with a solution. Since people would rather sit and complain, you will stand out. And if someone rejects your idea, ask them to come up with an alternative. In the back-and-forth, a solution everyone can live with will emerge.

Be careful when they say, “We must do it for the kids.”

Of course, Little League should be about the kids, but adults can use “We must do it for the kids” in manipulative ways. They may really mean, “We must do it for my kids.” Or more accurately, “We must do it for me.” Here’s a test: “Would you still be in favor of a decision if you and your kids don’t benefit?”

Be the better person.

It’s a motto I’ve followed throughout my life, but it’s especially important in Little League. With the childish behavior and boiling tempers, it’s important to maintain one’s dignity, self-control, and character.

It’s not about winning games. It’s about making better baseball players.

Winning games and championships is great, but our true job is to teach kids to play and enjoy baseball. Focus on player development, and the winning will come. And if it doesn’t, the kids will enjoy the satisfaction of seeing themselves improve – and that is a victory in itself.

Keep your perspective.

Twenty years from now, these kids won’t remember the scores of every game. They will remember the adults who made a difference in their lives.