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Play Ball!

By Maryann Turner
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #23, 1998.

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Maryann Turner

When we began our homeschooling journey 10 years ago, I didn't give sports much thought. After

all, our 5-year-old daughter hadn't expressed any interest in baseball, football or wrestling. She preferred doll babies and ballet class. So it wasn't until several years later, when our boys reached the age of Little League, that the dilemma of whether we wanted to be involved - and whether we would be allowed to be involved - surfaced in our lives.

Has it been a positive experience? The answer to that is a resounding, "Yes!" Has it always been positive? Well . . . let's just say it has offered us situations from time to time that we could use for character development!

Why did we choose to involve our children in community sports? The biggest reason was that they have God-given athletic abilities, and we really didn't want to see their talents go unused. It didn't have a lot to do with socialization (although many parents choose to use organized sports to increase their children's contact with other children). We really wanted to use the available programs for areas in which our children truly excelled, and not waste our time on activities that would not enhance their lives. We try to delegate our time to worthwhile pursuits, though using discernment in that area of our lives can at times become difficult. If not careful, the "extra-curriculars" can become your whole life!

First there was the battle with the county about allowing homeschoolers to participate in Recreational Department sports. Fortunately for us, the battle had been mostly won by our predecessors a couple of years earlier. So other than the usual, "I'm not sure we can do that. Let me check," we proceeded without too much flack. At that time, a neighboring county still would not allow homeschoolers to play . . . so we were lucky that we didn't have to fight our way in (though we would have if necessary!).

Next came the question of whether the children would be accepted by their coaches and peers! That was the most amazing part of the process for us. God blessed us far beyond any of our hopes. Not only did the children fit in, they quickly showed their leadership qualities, and it became obvious that homeschooling had not deterred their socialization skills at all. In fact, it had given them the confidence to step forward and lead. They had never had the disappointments of failures or the teasing of peers to shatter their confidence. In an instant, all my doubts about whether they would be ready to face the "big old world" vanished.

I'll never forget the day that our sons went to their first Little League baseball practice. They were ages 8 and 9 years old, and had never played baseball before. Up to that point their athletic careers had centered around soccer, but after much begging by our 9-year-old we decided to let them change sports for the spring season.

I was very apprehensive as we went to the first practice. I had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that baseball was very competitive even for the little guys. We got to practice, and after a brief pep talk from our new coach, the coach asked for volunteers. He wanted to know who had been a pitcher or catcher before. A couple of hands went up, and then he asked which children would like to try it for the first time. Up went my 9-year-old's hand! I gave him one of those "mother glares," thinking to myself, "Son, you've never even played baseball. You can't possibly pitch." I expressed my concerns to the coach in private, and he just smiled and said, "Let him try it, and we'll see what he can do."

To make a long story short, he tried out for pitching that day, was the starting pitcher in his first-ever baseball game, and has been pitching every since. Talk about a confidence booster! He grew up by leaps and bounds that summer, and never again have I discouraged him from trying something new. I learned a valuable lesson that day, too!

Incidentally, his brother started pitching the next season, and now they compete to see who starts each game. They are only a year apart in age, so they are in the same league. I guess we are a baseball family now, especially with little sister counting the days until March when her first season will begin. She is finally 8. (She seemed to think it took forever, but for me it came much too soon.)

Community sports has filled a void in our homeschool program, and added much fun and excitement to our family life. I don't have to worry about teaching P.E. at home, and we have the additional benefit of watching our children stretch themselves into new areas and look for the gifts that God has given them. It is a delight to see the excitement in their eyes, when they realize that they can succeed without being forced to fit into the mold of their public school peers. In fact, not only can they succeed and be accepted, they can excel even in areas that were once off-limits for us "anti-social" homeschoolers.

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