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Good sports at young age

By ROLLAND KIDDER

The other day I went to my granddaughter’s third grade softball game. It was a beautiful western New York day. The sun was shining, a bit cold, blue sky, green grass and a pristine ball field.

The field was surrounded by lawn chairs, parents, grandparents and siblings of the players. The players themselves were decked out in matching T-shirts supplied by local sponsors, dark pants and, can you believe it, a lot of pink cleated shoes.

As a kid, I can remember girls playing basketball and volleyball…but I can’t remember them being much on a ball diamond, except maybe for a few that were on Little League teams. But now, here they were, a bunch of 3rd grade girls swinging bats, running bases and learning the rudiments of softball. It was terrific!

Admittedly, there were a lot more swings, strikeouts and grounders than there were big hits and dramatic plays. But, that didn’t matter. Here was a group of girls learning how to play as a team. “You can’t score a run until somebody gets on base.” “A base runner needs the help (or error) of others in order to score a run.” Softball is not something that you can do on your own.

There was a lot of cheering going on as the girls would go to the plate. I have always thought that girls made better cheer leaders than boys, and this was demonstrated time and again by players from both benches.

And you have to “hand it off” to the coaches who are all parents and volunteers. There is a lot of important teaching going on, including the number one rule that you can learn by your mistakes as well as your accomplishments.

One coach would rally her team with “let’s go ladies!” The girls would respond accordingly by picking up their play, begin supporting each other more and refocusing on the game. It was fun to watch.

This is the part of small-town America that I like so much. These teams were a melting pot of everyone who lives here, and their extended families were watching their kids grow up learning a team sport. It was beautiful.

Girls from the small town of Bemus Point were playing girls from the big city of Jamestown. Both would be having games coming up against competitors from the suburb of Falconer and even from the far-off rural community of Watts Flats!

Being on a sports team is a quiet but resilient way of teaching us about life itself. It is one of those small but fundamental building blocks which make us better human beings in the long run. Learning how to function as a team makes us all better.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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