While I was a classroom teacher I was always looking for opportunities to make my students feel successful. Many times this occurred as a result of something I presented to them as a challenge, and out of just pure fun for everyone. Softball came under this category and it was one of the best confidence building activities we ever got involved with as a class. Sports and self-confidence go together extremely well.
For years I taught fifth and sixth grade students. My kids were from the inner city of Los Angeles and few had any experiences with team sports away from school. During the first week of classes we would go outside for physical education (P.E.) in the afternoon and we would play softball as a class, with half of us on one side and half on the other. What they didn’t know, unless they had older siblings or friends who had told them in advance, was that my class softball teams were legendary at the school where I was teaching.
During that first week I was looking for two things. First, I needed a pitcher. Like I mentioned, few of my kids had played in Little League or any other organized team away from school, so I was hoping for some raw talent to emerge and was never disappointed. My motto was ” If I have one decent pitcher it will be a good school year; if I have two pitchers the school year will be fantastic.”
The second thing I was looking for was confidence in my players. The rule was that everyone had to take a turn at bat, boys and girls alike. As each child approached home plate I was searching for something in their demeanor that would show me they had confidence in their ability to be a part of our team and strive to improve their skills. I loved watching the kids help each other with this process — how to stand, where to stand, how to hold the bat, how to keep your eye on the ball, and so forth. It was this sports and self-confidence combo that I was after each time we played.
The helpers in this case were the natural leaders, and those who were willing to be coached were those with the
greatest potential. And while we were practicing during this first week of school and into the next few weeks everyone got to hit the ball, no matter how many pitches it took. This required my pitchers to make adjustments to better serve the batter. They had to move in closer sometimes, especially for the girls who had typically never come this close to a bat or a softball. They also adjusted their pitches, something that would serve them well later on when we were playing more seasoned players. And when someone was reluctant to take their turn at bat I would plead with them to give it a try. “When you finally hit that ball it will be the best feeling in the world!” I would exclaim, and when they did they knew for themselves that I had not been exaggerating one bit.
And the level of confidence that came about from playing this sport amazed even me. Some of my most timid girls and boys, children who had never spoken up for themselves in the past seemed to come alive when they were successful on the softball field. I was so proud of them and knew they had a much better chance at lifelong success because of their experiences during this time.
Playing softball was the highlight of being in school for many of the students all year long. Yes, we played from the time school began until the last day of the school year and many of my students became quite good during this time. But before I share that part of the story, allow me to tell you what happened after that first month of practice with only my class involved. That is when I would casually say to one of the other fifth or sixth grade teachers, preferably in front of their classes as we were coming or going to recess or lunch “would your class like to play against my class in a softball game?” Of course they wanted to and the match was on!
Even though over the years everyone in the school knew this day was coming, I was amazed that not one of the other teachers ever practiced with their kids during the first month we were there. It was awesome to see all of my kids confidently taking their place on the field or in the batting lineup during our challenges with the other classes. Usually a few of my kids had a glove, and over the years I collected more gloves, a few bats, and even a catcher’s mask to contribute to the cause.
The other classes were pleasantly surprised when we shared these gloves and other equipment with them, whether they were in the field or up at bat. And if one of their players had not ever hit a baseball, one or two of my kids would rush forward to assist them with their stance and their positioning of hands on the bat. This was a beautiful thing to see, and because I always wear my sunglasses when I’m outdoors no one could see the occasional tear fall down my cheek.
I have to say that playing softball each year with my class was the best thing I ever did as a teacher to help my students achieve more, in the classroom and beyond the classroom. And some of the kids went on to play baseball in junior high and high school, something they might not have done otherwise. Teamwork, being present with your classmates, and focusing on something that is so special and important made for kids who were more likely to see the “big picture” of their life. It was the sports and self-confidence combination that made this a reality. If you can face down a pitcher who is a foot taller, more experienced, and hungry for a win and still hit a single, you can achieve most anything in your life.
I’m author and online marketing strategist Connie Ragen Green. I work with entrepreneurs to create multiple streams of online income and would love to connect with you. Download my Online Entrepreneur’s Blueprint and get started right away.
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Originally published at hugeprofitstinylist.com.