I’m a little league dad—again.
Well, maybe not really a dad, but a granddad. Or in my case, “Papa.”
No, it’s not “PawPaw.” I’ve said before that I don’t love that name, for me at least, and I’m sure there are many “PawPaw” grandfathers out there right now saying something not so nice about me since I think PawPaw is pretty popular.
But back to the little league—I found myself sitting on the sidelines a week ago as little league basketball practice began for two of my grandchildren, Abby and Zach.
They are playing in the Upward Basketball league in Slidell that was begun by First Baptist Church here 20 years ago. I was actually going to the church at the time they announced the formation of a new little league—something a bit different than the conventional public leagues every smaller community has.
The difference in this league is that they incorporate a Christian message and Christian values into the action. Pretty interesting idea I remember thinking at the time.
Naturally, they start each get together at practice or a game with a prayer, and that’s not so unusual since you see high school teams do that all the time. Thankfully we haven’t reached a place in our nation yet where local high school teams are barred from praying together.
But the Upward league goes a step further in that they pray at other times, they really emphasize showing grace to the other players and referees in the game, and overall, teaches good values of behavior to the players, while bringing them the message of the Gospel.
The older I have gotten as a Christian the more I learned to appreciate the grace God offers to each one of us in our lives. When we are young we don’t think as much about making mistakes, or doing things that might not be as pleasing to God as we later understand. But with age comes, hopefully, maturity and we begin to appreciate this great grace that comes from the Lord.
I don’t think there is a better place to teach that lesson than in the heat of a sports event when a referee or umpire makes what we think is a bad call. Yea, I think that’s a good way to show kids that everyone makes mistakes and as much as we want to be forgiven and accepted when we make them, we need to offer that same grace to others. The last time I checked everyone makes mistakes, so it sure is nicer when someone doesn’t let you have it every time you slip up.
So I attended the first practice for Abby, age 10, and then Zach, age 7, and was quickly reminded how much fun it was watching these young kids when they first start playing competitive sports, and playing for a real team.
I will claim a bit of the credit for getting both of them to love the sport of basketball. I’ve loved it my entire life and still play today as a way to exercise. So when I realized the Catholic Church across the street from my house had a great basketball court in the back of the property, and they graciously allow us to play anytime we want, I started taking the kids over there every week to play.
Abby began to enjoy basketball and, in my opinion, has developed very quickly into a good player with some real skills. One thing is especially clear and that is her intensity on the court—of course, that has been a “teaching moment” for me to help her calm down when the shots weren’t falling and let her know every game won’t be her best.
Zach was a little slower to find his love for the game since he was about 6 when we started and struggled for a while to develop a shot where he could get the ball up the goal. But about a year ago he started getting better and better, and now he is doing great—I honestly think both of them will be very good for their teams.
The first game of the season for the pair will be this Saturday and, of course, they expect “Papa” to be there, which I will be. It reminds me of the day when my daughter Chrissy fell in love with basketball and I never missed a game, driving to Shreveport over-and-over after she was homeschooled, but managed to walk on at the college level and make the team. There is something very exciting when you watch your child, or grandchild, play sports.
Abby and Zach have a long way ahead of them to see if they have any real future in the game, but more than anything I’ve always loved sports since it’s a great thing for kids to be involved in. Not only is it great exercise, giving them something to do that is better than sitting on the computer for too long, but it is simply good, clean fun.
I’ll try my best to sit quietly in the stands and enjoy the action without jumping up and yelling tips to my guard kids, especially since their mom will be right there with me. After all, we don’t need the newspaper man to be the first one asked to calm down at the game when the kids are the ones who should be learning the lessons!
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.