I read of another troubling trend among the youth of America. It seems that a large percentage of our children no longer play outside.
I was floored. Escaping to fresh air and staying there was my daily goal as a child. Staying home was not just stifling; it made you a sitting duck for more housework. Sure, staying in the house is more attractive these days. There are more entertainment options than five stations on a black and white TV. But I believe that parents have an obligation to push their kids out the front door while they still fit.
This summer, I’ve seen some bored “inside” kids explore the outside world and it usually lead to good things. For instance, a boy emerged from his house and spotted his equally bored friend across the street. Before I knew it bike riding had broken out. Not that kids have to have fun every time they emerge. They can also find satisfaction and self-worth through mowing, weeding and raking.
Forest Park has an organization dedicated, in part, to getting kids outside-Little League. This year, new leaders took over and learned, like their predecessors, that it’s an all-consuming year-round commitment. They did a great job of organizing the teams, getting volunteers to coach and staffing the Dugout Café, among other duties.
I was privileged to coach a team of 12-year-old boys and I hope other Forest Park teams had the same positive experience. The manager and coaches kept the tone upbeat, while we ingrained the fundamentals of baseball. I’m not singling out our team over others, because opposing players were also eager to learn.
It’s true we won only two games out of 15, but if you came to our games you couldn’t tell we were losing. No matter how far we were down our kids kept cheering for their teammates until the final out.
We may have been inept on Opening Day but as the season went on, we were catching better, throwing to the right base and getting timely hits. Then we’d have one bad inning and blow the game.
Like many Forest Park teams, we had a bunch of nice kids from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. I keep reading about a disconnect between the black community and baseball, but African-Americans turned out in strong numbers to play in Forest Park. We had kids who traced their roots to the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines, we even had white kids.
Little League is one way to get kids outside, but the outdoor activity doesn’t need to be organized. Pickup baseball games, bike riding, swimming, tennis are all available to Forest Park kids. If that fails to stir their interest, you can always hand them a rake.