The Not-So-Great Divide

By Brian Gotta

I recently made a visit to Montgomery, AL to see my son play baseball. The town was filled with history, both from the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Here was where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on the bus, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and led marches. Learning more about the events of those times made me wonder how much progress we’ve actually made in all of these years.

I can’t imagine there is anyone not saddened by the state we find ourselves in today, fifty years after the famous march on Montgomery. It seems we, as a society, are retreating even farther into our own camps, separate ideologies and prejudices. Tolerance of differences and celebration of diversity have always been points of pride in America, but everywhere you look it seems those ideals are being trampled by hateful rhetoric and bigotry.

So what does this all have to do with youth sports?

I was thinking about a team of kids aged, eight, nine, ten, eleven or twelve, it doesn’t really matter. And it isn’t important what sport they’re playing, baseball, softball, soccer…anything. The team is comprised of two or three youngsters each who are Christian, Jewish, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim and Hindu. Their parents come from different places in the world and society, but here are their kids all on the same team.

When a young Asian boy slides in home safely, there is a white and black teammate there to give him a high-five and pat him on the back. When the Middle-Eastern player scores a goal, he’s hugged and congratulated by a young Indian player, joined shortly after by one of his Jewish and Hispanic teammates.

When the team’s manager teaches one of the players how to swing a bat, he does the same for the next and the next, regardless of color or creed. When the soccer coach demonstrates the proper technique to strike the ball, he has each player give it a try one after another, providing the same gentle instruction and encouragement to every child.

I don’t know what the parents would be doing during these games and practices. Would they be on the sideline eying each other suspiciously, or would they commune in the shared joy of watching their children do something they loved?

At the end of the game I see the Team Mom handing out home-baked cookies and juice boxes, beaming as each child politely tells her “thank-you” and watching them sit in a circle laughing and enjoying their snack.

We know how to play together. What changes when we become adults that makes it so difficult to live together?

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

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