I’ve met a lot of teams over the past few years with inspiring stories. Some of these stories are inspiring but also heartbreaking, like Team 8 playing for Jamie McHenry’s memory. But tonight, I got to be inspired in a whole new way. A joyful, I can’t stop smiling, sort of way!
I went to grab a bite to eat with my husband after a meeting, and as we sat there I was completely distracted by the chatter and uncontained joyful giggles coming from the back corner of the restaurant. My husband, Sean, kept looking at me with that look he gets when he knows I’m in another world.
“I’m sorry, I have to go talk to them”, I said as he gave me that knowing nod he always gives me when I’m on a mission and pulling out my notebook.
Sometimes, to truly appreciate something, you must see it in its purest form. That is what caught my attention, that’s what grabbed my heart. Something that’s been missing on the ball fields, basketball courts, and turf lately.
I love youth sports; the competition, drive, opportunity and excitement. But it’s been spoiled, watered down, tainted, by the greed, power, jealousy, recruiting, bragging, entitlement and business of it all. When you go to a game you learn take the good with the bad and filter out some of those unpleasantries if you can, though you may need earplugs to do it. Then you put on that happy face and try to focus on the good stuff, the parts of sports that are still fun and worth it.
The last time I felt this strongly pulled to a sports culture in front of me was seeing team 8 gather around Jamie’s jersey and take the field in his honor. But tonight, it was there again, and I wasn’t even on a field.
Youth girl baseball players, all sitting together with the most contagious smiles and laughter you’ll ever see, celebrating their last game over some ice cream. It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t help but catch the smile myself and eventually I had to go meet them. This team was a part of the South Metro Miracle League. A local chapter of a national organization that gives kids ages 3 and up the opportunity to play baseball regardless of ability. Verbal, non-verbal, autistic, physical difficulties or not, they were welcome to be a part of a team.
I spoke with the team coaches, who were also parents of players on the team. One of their daughters would be able to participate in whatever she wanted, but they feared their other daughter would miss out and be unable to play sports. Because of this incredible league, and others like it, no one misses out on what sports can do to enrich a kid’s life. Both of their daughters get to play! YES! Everyone SHOULD be able to play sports. We need more of these teams out there, until no one sits on the sideline who wants to play.
After speaking with these incredible athletes, I took away a lesson I’d have never learned from those super star travel teams I see all the time. These athletes in the Miracle League are a part of something so much bigger, with the purest form of love I’ve ever seen. They love the game. They love their teammates. They love being out there. They aren’t distracted by the things that have crept into our youth sports because all they know is LOVE.
These athletes aren’t out there to grab the attention of a college scout. They could come to our fields and teach us to remember exactly what joy and becoming a part of a team is all about, and they could do that just by letting us watch them play. They can do it just in their joyful post season ice cream gathering.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten the power of WE GET TO. What we take for granted, spoil, take advantage of, what we are so busy trying to dominate, perfect, control, and use to propel our kids forward – those are the things that so many others are thrilled, joyous, ecstatic to GET to be a part of. But we’ve lost that part, haven’t we? We need to find that in all of our kids sports once again. We need to bring back the love. The purest form of sport once again.
These awesome kids let me come over and crash their end of season celebration. Take a look at their picture, playing together for the past 6 years, and best of friends. Go ahead, try to not smile and fall in love
You can find this organization on facebook at southmetromiracle. They would love your support!