Many great things have happened in the Neosho the last few years, but not without considerable struggle and some good old fashioned elbow grease. After eight ball games last week, the example foremost on my mind is the Neosho Little League. Just three short years ago it appeared Neosho youth wouldn’t even have a summer ball program, but thanks to generous donations by area businesses and thousands of volunteer hours, our local Little League chapter is thriving again. In fact, it is prospering so much, that Morse Park is experiencing all kinds of parking and field scheduling problems. Indeed, these are good problems to have!
Kids and adults alike can learn a lot more than just sports from an organized youth program. I’ve learned a lot through the years from many wonderful coaches, but today one in particular is on my mind. “Coach Danny” as he is known, has been a stalwart in Neosho youth baseball for years. He has played a part in the old city league, the YMCA league, and now the Little League. He is exactly what every volunteer in every organization ought to be. Danny has three goals that set the mantra for his teams. 1) Play right 2) Play hard and 3) Have fun.
When Danny says “play right,” I know he means two things. First of all, Danny expects his players to follow the rules. That means no illegal equipment, no cheap shots, and everything is on the up and up. The second part of “play right” means respect. Danny expects his players to respect themselves, each other, their opponents, and especially the umpires. Coach Danny doesn’t have much of a doghouse, but the quickest way for a player to find himself in it is to break some element of rule #1. This is the foundational principle on which the subsequent rules rest. As it relates to real life, we all have some sort of laws/rules that we have to follow and if we don’t it can result in getting a stern warning, an ejection, getting put out, or even forfeiture. As far as respect, we each have the responsibility of “playing nice” when there are disagreements or differences of opinion. Sports and life alike have conflicts, awkward situations, and times when things just don’t go our way. In the midst of such things, being a good sport should be something we all strive for; “playing nice” however does not necessarily mean turning a blind eye to offenders. I haven’t always hit the Coach Danny sportsmanship bar, but it’s something I keep working at.
“Play hard” is pretty self-explanatory. It means running full bore to first when you just hit into an out. It means that you can’t worry about sweating and staying comfortable. It means that you might have to get stained or bruised to make a play. It might even mean research, lots and lots of time, and sacrifice. Life can also be uncomfortable, sweaty, and bruising. Sometimes we don’t measure up, catch the breaks, or sometimes we just don’t get it done. Nonetheless, there is a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that you went all out. Just like the old saying, “go hard or go home.”
Lastly, let’s consider “Have Fun.” One of the great tragedies of youth sports is when a coach, parent, or even the child himself doesn’t allow for the fun that can be found in team activities. Sometimes the pressure to win or generate stats overwhelms the desire to have fun. Don’t get me wrong, winning is a lot more fun than losing, but as in all things, moderation is key. Sports should be exciting, not excoriating; challenging, not crippling. Life is serious business, but when we forget to have fun, we are visiting serious harm upon ourselves.
Another summer ball season has come and went, but the lessons still linger. Everyone get your hand in the huddle, on 3 let me hear you say “Play right, play hard, and have fun.” 1… 2…3…. I hope you all have a great week and enjoy what’s left of the Polar Vortex!
Charles Collinsworth is a member of the Neosho City Council.