The other day, as I was driving through the heart of the city, I noticed a group of young adolescent boys playing football. It was a refreshing sight! I was tempted to pull over and just watch for a while, but there was no immediate place to park. But my heart lingered behind as our boys were suited up in football gear and helmets as they took the field.
As an educator who is crucially aware of the inner city plagues, it warmed my heart to see these positive images in spite of the daily fears for our youth. My thoughts also ventured to the parents who silently drive their children to these events and strive to pay whatever fees. They truly work hard to give their children an opportunity to have some viable outlets and avenues in life.
I thought briefly of one of my nephews who played little league as a child. As an adult, he currently works in the field of sports and has done so for years. Those childhood experiences helped to shape him and positively affected his career choices. And that leads me to our latest victory this summer. We are still reveling in the success and joy that our little leaguers, the Jackie Robinson West, brought to the city. The boys were gracoius and did not disappoint us as an all-American American team of 13 boys, aged eleven to thirteen.
Rarely do we get a chance to showcase our youth in such a wonderful light, but we educators know that there are many great children existing and thriving. This team, led by Coach Darold Butler, made us proud as a city. The children were not only good on the field, but they had been trained and were well-versed as they handled the media and public. It brought warm, fuzzy feelings to many of us.
They became the National Champions and the City of Chicago pulled out all of the stops in acknowledging their achievements. They had a victory ride on tourist buses through the city and ended up in the renowned Millennium Park. There were over 10,000 people present to cheer them on. Later, there was a fireworks show in their honor, thanks to the City’s mayor. Also, the field where they currently practice is due for a $6.5 million upgrade in the near future.
The White Sox allowed them to sport their 2005 World Series trophy for a while. They were also allowed to ‘stand with the players and the sing the National Anthem before the White Sox took on the Detroit Tigers’ at U.S. Cellular Field (Madhani, Aamer. ‘Little Leaguers still knocking it out of the park.’ USA Today- September 4, 2014).
The Cubs gave them time on their Wrigley Field and gifted them with ‘specially made Jackie Robinson warm-up jerseys’ (Madhani). There have been monetary gifts and they recently returned from a weekend at Disney World. These experiences will stay with these young men for the rest of their lives and they have brought so many smiles and happy tears to our city and certainly to the African American community.
When the southerner uses the phrase, ‘that is high cotton,’ it means that someone is playing with the big leagues or in the company of those with great influence. Well, our boys had this wondrous experience and it brought pride to our city and further united us.
This pre-teen age group can be one of the most challenging because we often do not know how to reach them when they are angry and full of angst. So back to the old child development rules, play not only works, it adds balance to a child’s life. According to psychologists, play helps them with social competence and emotional security.
Jona K. Anderson-McNamee of Montana State University writes,” Play helps your child learn the rules of your family and what is expected of him or her. As children grow, play helps them learn how to act in society.” After this historic victory, it was recently reported that many new little boys are signing up for the new Jackie Robinson West camp and are getting ready to listen to the announcer when he says, “Play ball!”
Lynn September 15, 2014