Fun: The Way to Baseball Happiness!
John F. Paciorek
How can I have fun playing baseball if I am 5 years old and have never before played the game? I have never caught, thrown, or batted a baseball. This scenario might be considered a “stage 1” category of developmental (kindergarten level) inquiry.
A 5 year old who would ask such a question must have seen the game being played by children his age (or perhaps older) who appeared to be having fun. He must have noticed the children hitting, catching, and throwing a round ball while running to and from various positions on a diamond shaped field with fence around the perimeter.
IF he had not someone to show or teach him the simple fundamentals of playing the game, perhaps his imagination was cultivated enough to allow him to pretend that he too could perform the actions that he saw being displayed on that field or park, in the privacy of his own mind. As his body was becoming more capable of mimicking the actions of throwing, catching, and batting imaginary objects in and from the “air” while running bases and chasing balls from fictitious projections of his mind, he might have elicited from himself a readiness to experience the real thing if and when the opportunity presented itself.
I can only imagine what may have become of this erstwhile baseball prospect, but I saw firsthand how my 3 year-old brother initiated his baseball career. I was a senior on my High School baseball team in the early 1960s. All my relatives and sometimes professional baseball scouts would come out to see me show off my particular talents.
Our team often played its games on Sandlot fields with 3 other adjacent fields back to back to back. Sometimes all fields were being used at the same time. Other times, only one field was in use.
It became common occurrence that while my game was proceeding on field one, my little brother would look forward to watching my game for a while. Then after moments of gaining inspiration and enthusiasm, he would run off to field two, directly behind mine. And there he would stay for 7 to 9 innings mimicking all the action he saw displayed on field one. Pretending to pitch the ball, then hitting the pretend ball, then running the (real) 90 foot bases, sliding into 2nd, 3rd, and home bases. He would usually continue this exuberant activity for my entire game. And it wouldn’t be uncommon to observe the people in “our” stands looking over the guard railing onto the adjacent field watching the antics of a remarkable young baseball prospect in the initial stages of his long baseball career.
Is there ever any fun in any endeavor that presents no prospect for winning? Fun and profitability can be found only in the patient, subsequent, sequential learning and properly proficient application of the skills (physical, mental, and psychological) that are entailed in the ultimate prospect of WINNING! Everyone can be a “winner” according to the extent to which he diligently ascribes to the preceding statement.
A notable historic Persian Poet, by the name of Rumi implies that, in all of life’s competitive encounters, there is a viable alternative to the traditional conclusion that someone wins while another loses. From this we can assume that no one really wins unless everyone wins.
The greatest motivational tool to learning and teaching is to have fun. The teacher has fun by seeing his students have fun. He vicariously puts himself in their place and visualizes how he might have enjoyed that same experience when he was of their age.
The student(s) have fun by first giving the teacher the benefit of not doubting his intent to increase their knowledge and understanding about the subject in order to allow them the opportunity to improve their proficiency in applying themselves to the lesson pertaining to their own prospect for winning an improved status in Life itself.
With all my youngest students, I generally ask if they are ready to have FUN. Their hearty reply is always the first indication they are ready to accept my instruction and commence on a joyful journey of fun by way of enhanced application of learning.
My older students already know from past experience that they are going to have fun, but don’t always accept willingly the prelude to their version of fun in the form of preliminary exercise and warm-ups. They want immediate access to the more “meaty” subject matter.
Some perform the “ritual” vigorously, with the apparent understanding of its ultimate benefit to those wanting to be the best they can be. Others half-heartily go “through the motions,” perhaps thinking they are preserving energy to perform more adeptly at the later stages of the lesson.
But as long as each student has a smile on his/her face, I know learning to varying degrees is taking place. And each, to his own degree of substantive learning, is a winner, to that degree.
In Sports, either during an innocuous game in P.E. and recess, or vigorous inter-scholastic competition, the primary purpose for which each player is participating is to WIN! But winning, to most participants, is the act of being victorious over an opposing team or individual.
But those who have studied the “game” know that true “winning” is the natural consequence of “right thinking and acting” while in pursuance of objective after objective in route to achieving a pre-determined goal. In Golf, a commentator may say, Tiger just “hit a winner”; in Basketball, Koby’s 30 foot fade-away jumper is “a winner,” but neither shot might have won the match or game.
Even on a professional level it is easy to see how the sudden and temporary elation of one moment of competition can be filled with ecstatic joy. The simple appreciation of a single moment of glory can make everyone a winner, even if his team lost the game.
After the game you don’t have to ruminate in despair or dissatisfaction, but rather remember and dwell on the moments that you and your teammates (as well as the opposing players) performed at the best of their abilities. The ultimate goal may not have been achieved this time, but in its pursuance, lots of fun and exciting moments of opportunity presented themselves to remind you and your teammates of what could happen “next time.”
Some coaches attempt to motivate their players (students) to win at just about any cost. They would have them intimidate their opposition, with physical force if necessary. And they may even inadvertently intimidate their own players with the intent to “harden them” to the point of insensitivity toward anyone who would oppose their own collective purpose of winning.
It would be difficult to detect in this scenario any sense of joy that most parents would hope to see their children experience. The best coach is always one who emphasizes all the fundamental components that the game entails and an attitude (mental and emotional) that inspires all of his players to do the best they can do.
At each moment of every practice, while performing the essential skills he has introduced to them, they are incrementally fulfilling their individual and collective purposes of gaining proficiency to their highest level of competency. His objective is not to instill in his players the idea to “be better than everyone else,” but rather to “be the best he or she can be” – only to “be better today than you were yesterday.” How much better is totally up to each individual. If everyone reaches that simple objective each day, he certainly can consider him/herself a WINNER.
As “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way,” so, there is no precedence set for Happiness but by “Having Fun.” Having fun is discerned at the first sign of accomplishment, and is reinforced in subsequent steps of learning.
The joy of “self-accomplishment” intrinsically inculcates into the minds of fledgling youth the notion that living life to the fullest is FUN! But of course, supervision and propriety are necessary forays with which to learn the natural sequence to all constructive enterprise.
If the teaching – learning experience occurs in subsequent steps, sequential development is their natural consequence, and joyful expectation of progress eventuates in the ecstatic revelation that his/her patience has indeed paid off as the entire journey culminates in a “fun-filling” adventure.
Coming Soon: Batting Your Way to a “Fun-filled” Baseball Experience.