The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of 82 regional qualifying tournaments and seven World Series events for Little League International leaving ball players across 84 countries heartbroken.
If you are a Little League ballplayer-–baseball or softball–this is a huge emotional loss for you on many levels. Words will not lessen your disappointment. Sadly, it is a reality that you must deal with and discover new ways to move forward in the pursuit of happiness.
Here are some suggestions that may help you accomplish that.
Go Slowly, Allow Some Time To Pass
Recognize your feelings of sadness and loss and take time to go through the healing process. Trying to deal with this while you are in the moment can be difficult when your feelings are still raw.
Your sense of loss is real and many of your emotions will be like other types of mourning or grief people experience after a loss.
Although many Little Leaguers are going through this, it is personal. Your loss is your loss, your feelings are your feelings, and no one can blame you if you feel depressed, angry, or betrayed by the decision to cancel your Little League post-season.
Manage Your Emotions
Take care of your basic needs like getting enough sleep and eating properly. You will have a more difficult time dealing with your emotions if you are unhealthy.
Focus on what you can control, not what you cannot control.
Do not view your feelings as facts that cannot be changed, they are emotions that can and will change over time.
You will need the emotional support of family and friends. Don’t direct your frustrations and the anger caused by this situation towards them and risk losing their support.
Remain physically active.
Being physically active will not only help you stay in shape, It can reduce stress, help control impulses, lessen anxieties, focus your mind, and make you happier and healthier.
Think about other people who are going through the same thing.
You will be surprised how emotionally impactful this can be, not only for others but for you.
Maintain healthy relationships with teammates and friends by staying in touch with them, actively listening to what they are saying and be open to seeking and offering help to others when they are in need.
Keep Things In Perspective
We all recognize these are extraordinary times. Knowing this, you may feel embarrassed to share how you feel about your sense of loss. Don’t be. Acknowledging what you are feeling is not a sign of weakness. It is an important and necessary step you need to take in order to heal emotionally.
There have been hurricanes, tornadoes and floods that have closed schools and cancelled sports. Most of those athletes managed to endure what you are about to go through because they actively participated in bringing normalcy back into their lives.
Pivot Back To Normal
As disappointing as the possible cancellation of your Little League season and Little League World Series may be, it only defines this moment in time. It is not a measure of what the future holds for you.
Begin by focusing on small achievable goals like maintaining a simple daily routine, and not dwelling on your loss. This will help you get back to normal.
Baseball and softball are games where you can do a variety of individual drills to improve your skills and have fun. Some professional players offer some examples here.
Engage in baseball and softball conversations and debates with family and friends. This is a great time to catch up on some reading and even watching classic ball games. For example, Derek Jeter has a series of age appropriate baseball books called “The Contract Series” – Five Books (Ages 4-8 and 9-11).
If your parents approve, start a Zoom chat to discuss topics of interest in baseball and softball with friends. Some parents and children have returned to collecting baseball cards to bond and cope with the absence.
In the end, it will be the actions you take now and how well you handle your emotions in the present, which will help define what your future looks like.
Finally, take a step back to the time you first began playing baseball or softball. Think about all the moments of joy and the feelings that drove you to continue along the path to play this season. Hold on to and cherish those moments. They will not replace this lost Little League experience, but at some point, in the future when all of this begins to fade, those memories will outweigh the sadness and disappointment you are experiencing now.
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.