What was unimaginable just a few weeks ago is now a painful reality. Little League International has cancelled the 2020 Little League Baseball Regional Tournaments and the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
At the local level, many communities are still hopeful their little league baseball and softball seasons can take place later this spring or summer. But there is a growing fear that many ballparks will remain closed this season.
For kids, the start of baseball and softball in the spring has always been a new beginning, full of possibilities that include the dream of making it to the Little league World Series.
For those parents who played baseball or softball as a child, the game serves as a time machine that connects the joy and the magic of the game they played as a child to that of their son or daughter playing the game today.
If your community cancels the Little League season, your support will be needed more than ever to help your child deal with their disappointment.
Here are some suggestions that may help you accomplish that. You know your child better than anyone else, so when you view these suggestions, choose the things that you believe will work best for them.
Lead by example. Stay calm. Given time, most kids will weather this storm. As challenging as this situation may be, there will be other disappointments in your child’s life and this is an opportunity to help them learn how to cope. When kids know they are loved and supported by those they care about, they are much more resilient than we give them credit for.
Allow time for your child to grieve and heal emotionally
Your child’s sense of loss will be personal. They may experience the same kinds of emotions that we feel when we mourn or grieve. Not all kids will go through this, but for those who do, they will each grieve in their own way. Some kids will recover more quickly. For others, letting go will take longer. Before you step in, be sure to give your son or daughter the time they need to mourn their loss.
Resist rushing in to save them from experiencing their own emotions
- This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the most important gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to manage their emotional pain and discomfort.
- They are disappointed for a very good reason and have the right and the need to deal with their feelings in order to learn how to work through their frustrations, disappointments or sense of loss.
- Once you have given them some time to process what has happened, it’s okay to ask them if they need anything from you. Don’t worry if they say nothing! They may not know how to articulate what they want. It will come in time.
- Let them take the lead before you start offering your opinions. Their emotions may be too raw to have a meaningful conversation. That will come when they are ready to talk.
Show Empathy for what they are going through
A great way to show empathy is to let them know you care. Words are not the only way to accomplish this. Simple acts, like a smile or making their favorite meal can work. You get the idea.
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Once your son or daughter feels you understand what they are going through, they will be more likely to listen to your opinions. You can start that conversation by telling them how much you love them and that their feelings are not facts that can’t be changed, but emotions that can and will change over time.
Now is the time to hit the reset button.
The beauty of baseball and softball is that many skills of the game can be practiced in your yard, a driveway, your garage, an empty parking lot or when parks reopen on an open field. Hitting, catching and throwing a ball can become part of a daily routine. Encourage your child to explore other options that can help them stay connected to the game.
Find fun activities you can do together or as a family. Talk to them about their future hopes and dreams to help them get their minds off of what they have lost and begin to focus on what they have and can still achieve and experience.
Notice changes in their behavior
In spite of your efforts, some kids may struggle emotionally. If you notice your child is experiencing the symptoms noted below and you can’t help them work through it, reach out to your child’s school psychologist or your family physician for help.
Changes in their appetite or eating habits
- Problems sleeping
- Short temper and Irritability
- Sadness or depression
- Lack of motivation or apathy
Finally, you may find some comfort in the words of the Terence Mann character in “Field of Dreams”:
“The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, it reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
Good luck, stay safe and keep the faith.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Garland Allen is a retired teacher, Athletic Director and coach who served more than 35 years in public education. Wayne McDonnell, Jr. has been an educator for more than two decades, and served as a clinical professor of sports management and academic chair at NYU. His research on the game of baseball has been featured at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture.