Life Lessons from Tee Ball

My son’s tee ball season is drawing to a close; there is only one more game. I’m a little sad; it’s been fun watching the kids play (fave moment: instead of running home when his teammate joined him at third base, Liam kindly moved over to make room for him).

Looking back on the season, it got me thinking that besides offering exercise for the kids and entertainment for the parents, tee ball offers some really important life lessons.

When trying new things, just do your best. Liam was pretty terrified at the beginning. I don’t blame him; it’s scary to be up at bat with everyone looking at you, or be playing first base (the only place anybody seems to throw the ball to in tee ball). All you can ever do in those moments is your best, we told him. Don’t worry about being perfect. Hopefully he will remember that as he goes through life.

Pay attention. If you don’t, you’ll miss the play and let your team down. Or get hit with the ball. Another excellent life lesson.

Instead of fighting over the ball, remember that you are a team. It happened all the time at the beginning: the ball would get hit, and the entire team would descend onto it in one big pile. “You’re on the same team!” the coaches would say, to no avail. They got better, but it was interesting to me how hard it was for them to learn that they shouldn’t literally be fighting their teammates for the ball. Then again, it’s one of the tougher lessons to learn in life, too.

Liam, with his medal

Be a good sport. Cheer for your teammates. Don’t get angry or upset if you have to use the tee (some kids insisted on more tries even after missing lots of pitches). Play the position your coach asks you to, even if you aren’t happy about it (there were no outs in their games, so we didn’t have to deal with that—next year we will). Always be nice to the other team, no matter how they treat you. Again, tough but important lessons to learn.

Small achievements matter. At the game yesterday, the coach gave medals to all the kids on the team. Liam was bursting with pride. “I’m pretty happy with myself, “ he told me on the way home. “I got a medal.” And just as I started to think: yeah, well, everyone did, I realized that Liam had accomplished quite a bit in this first season. He figured out how to hold a bat and even hit a pitched ball sometimes. He knew how to use a mitt, caught the ball way more than he used to, and had developed reasonable aim when throwing it back. He knew how to run the bases, even if he sometimes forgot that he was supposed to touch each one as he did. He knew the basics of fielding a ball and where he should throw it. This is a lot for a six-year-old.

We tend to lose sight of this as we get older. We tend to think that something isn’t an achievement unless it gives us recognition or money or otherwise makes us stand out from the crowd. But trying something new, reaching a goal, stretching ourselves even just a little—these are achievements too. All of a sudden, I was really grateful to have a tee ball player.

“I’m pretty happy with you, too,” I said.