THE NEWBERG REPORT — June 7, 2008

One of the reasons I was looking forward to getting Max involved in T-Ball this year, even though he’s still just three, was the chance to start teaching him the concept of “team.”  I think kids who are sports fans understand team on one level when they watch the Rangers or Cowboys or Stars or Mavs, but it’s different when they get the opportunity to play.

Baseball is, of course, a series of individual battles at its most elemental, but to share a uniform is to form and accept a bond, and it’s never too early for a kid to understand that — and as we’ve learned as Rangers fans in the last couple days, it’s not necessarily something that develops and sticks naturally, as surprising as that may be.

Being part of a team means to depend on each other and to step up to that responsibility, the responsibility of dependability, yourself.  To understand that if everyone pulls on the oar in sync, it works better.  To get that personalities don’t have to match, as long as they mesh.  One day it will be called chemistry, but it’s a bit soon for that.  

Team is a privilege.

I still remember realizing at age seven or eight that we had two or three guys on my Red Barons soccer team who were definitely better than me, and coming to terms with it in such a way that I wasn’t resentful, but instead pumped that they were on my team.  It’s just as important, I think, for kids to begin to get that, just as much as keeping the front shoulder down at the plate matters, or getting baseball-ready as the other team’s batter steps up matters, or rushing to the juice boxes and snacks after the good-game procession on the field matters.

And then you can only hope that the message sinks in, gets into the wiring.
Learning teamwork and character is one thing.  Consistency of character is another.

After this morning’s T-Ball game, it was on to swimming lessons for Max.  He went from squarely in his comfort zone to somewhat outside of it.  

But after a few early hesitant moments, he quickly bought in.  Soon that same smile and energy that he had two hours earlier as he tapped the plate with his bat were back.

It was another step in the right direction.  Take to coaching, learn to let the game come to you, and don’t fight it, and you won’t sink.  Relax, breathe, move forward.

We all know that sometimes, certainly in sports, talent trumps character, especially when the stakes get higher.  But not always.

You can only hope that the players you pull for, the ones your kids cheer for, back up the message by their actions.  Respect the game, respect yourself, and the game will respect you back.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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