The Importance of Losing

On Saturday I did what any sane, obsessed ultrarunner might do on a fine sunny morning by running 32 miles on a 400 meter track.  That’s 128 laps for you mathematicians.  And a lot of left turns.

The infield of this particular track at Dunbar Park in Chicago hosts several tee-ball and tiny-tot little league games, so while I ran myself in delirious circles, I was entertained by our national pastime at its tiniest level.  Sort of.

I understand tee-ball and coach-pitch teams are for the young ones.  I would guess they were between 5-7 years old.  But some of what I saw on those fields turned my stomach.

During one game I counted 20 defenders in the field.  In another, a kid grounded out but was still allowed to occupy first base.  I even heard “let’s have a do-over” from one of the “coaches”.

I know we live in a semi-psychotic, hopey-changey surreality, where everyone is a “winner” and negativity is shunned like logic at an evangelical mega-church.  But I think people are missing the point here: there is very valuable lesson in failure.

Seriously.

Life sucks sometimes.  It’s hard.  It’s cruel.  It’s relentless.  But it’s also rewarding and serendipitous and full of potential.  If we rely on sheltered observations to teach our youth that failure and shortcomings are not a part of the process, then we are going to end up with a planet full of passive, stale, robots incapable of innovation and creativity.

Mistakes are a part of the success equation.  Let’s not rob our future of that valuable lesson.

Also, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

4 Comments

Let’s have a do over? Yuck! I completely agree with you. Failure is an important teaching moment, one every bit as valuable as success. To my way of thinking, the current, let’s not keep score, yay everyone wins a prize, way of “teaching” children obliterates nearly all of the teaching from the pursuit.
— Kristen

The sad truth is, Jeff, is that it’s so hard to get kids to play baseball anymore. If the kids don’t have fun, then they’re not going to play. Period. They’ll play soccer, or just nothing at all. Coaching baseball up north, is much like the movie ‘The Comrades of Summer’, getting hockey players to learn the sport and embrace it. In our T-Ball, yes, everyone hits, and is safe, so they get to run the bases. We don’t have 20 kids on the field, and even narrowed it down this year to about 5 kids per team, so everyone has a chance to play the ball at some point. At the coach pitch level (7-8), they are out and play more by the rules. For them to be able to play competetive games, though, us coaches must give them the skills to do that. They need to be taught the basic fundamentals of throwing, hitting, and catching. It can be tricky up here with so little ‘summer’ to work with. Baseball has two big things going against it: 1) it’s hard-hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. 2) kids today have no patience. They don’t understand the pace of the game. I try my best to teach that, and we do have a lot of good people up here who love baseball. But, it seems like an up hill battle sometimes.
–Mike

Kristen — When everyone wins a prize then it makes the prize meaningless.
Mike — I had no idea there was this difficulty, I just hope that those who do take up the game learn that the best ones make an out 7 out of 10 times. Thanks for leading our youth in the proper way!
–Jeff

Thanks, Jeff. I do see your and Kristen’s point about the ‘prize’. But, there has to be a certian age/skill level to set that standard. Again, the kids must be taught the skills to compete before asking them to play competetively. When we were in high school, players were cut from the team if they were’nt good enough. Now, schools are lucky to field a team…
–Mike

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