Despite the ongoing pandemic, the advent of spring has youth across the country eagerly pursuing opportunities to return to baseball. Whether they end up playing in an outdoor diamond or in the comfort of their own basement, here are four tips to make it a better season for everyone.
1. Pivot the focus from winning to growing. This isn’t to say that kids shouldn’t play their best. Rather, they should make the experience as much about the journey as the outcome. Analysts agree that children are more likely to enjoy sports when they measure their individual progress, effort, and performance, rather than comparing themselves to others. This approach not only cultivates a greater sense of fulfillment among children, but also countermands an overly competitive climate in which 70% of kids quit playing sports by age 13.
2. Avoid overuse injuries. The emotional and physical benefits of exercise are enormous, but all things are best done in moderation. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), a consistent warm-up routine is one of the best ways to avoid injuries. “Always start with easy calisthenics, such as jumping jacks,” the AAOS says. “Continue with walking or light running, such as running the bases. Gentle stretching of the back, hamstrings and shoulders is also a good idea.”
KidsHealth adds that players experiencing pain in their pitching arm should take a break until the pain goes away. And the National Center for Health Research suggests that players be open to alternatives to traditional baseballs, including foam balls, and balls with rubber centers in lieu of the normal twine and cork.
3. Pursue mentorship opportunities. At Basement Sports, we’re fond of anything that brings little kids and big kids together. Accordingly, baseball can provide a great environment for mentorship opportunities. Per Physical & Health Education America, “the benefits of coaching and mentoring are well-documented, with the proteges experiencing increased academic achievement, lower engagement in risky behaviors, greater self-efficacy . . . and improved social skills.”
In addition to coaching, a sporting context facilitates peer-to-peer mentoring. According to the Foundation for Global Sports Development, mentees develop greater self-efficacy and decreased behavioral problems. But the perks of peer-to-peer mentoring cut both ways, with mentors experiencing greater self-esteem, empathy, and better conflict resolution skills.
4. And most important of all . . . have fun! “I believe that we have anecdotal evidence that with enough play, the brain works better,” says Eric Barker of online publication Barking Up the Wrong Tree. “We revel in novelties . . . And through our embrace of the new we are attracted to situations that test skills we do not need now, but may need in the future.”
Our closing advice to all those youth diving into another season of the American Pastime: embrace growth, play fully and healthily, pursue novelty, and keep an eye out for anyone who can join you in your journey of discovery. Batter up!