David is fourteen- years old, and this is his first year of baseball! How can he be a rookie at such an advanced age, you ask? I did a calculation and, in the past eight years, he suffered a broken arm (two different summers--one required pins!), we moved on four different summers, and the drive to organized anything took thirty minutes during another summer.
I warned David in advance about a couple of things. First, he would not play much because the coach would want to field his more experienced boys. He should expect an inning or two per game because of the league rules. Second, his coach gave me the impression of being driven. He works the boys hard and chews them out when they need it. David does not take to hide chewings easily, so I told him he would have to bear with it. Third, he needs to be honest with his coach about his experience level.
Clearly, David is not the most skilled player on the team. He makes up for it through his diligence. The first parent I met said, "Oh, your David's mom! He is such a hard worker. He's always the first to start running his lap and the first to finish." I was shocked because, before this, we practically had to run with a hot poker behind him to get him to move! Another parent said, "He really hussles on the field." (Uh, are we talking about the same David?) One time, David told me, "I decided to run an extra lap. The coach said, 'You ran the first one for me, but you ran the second one for yourself. Good job.'" It's possible he was talking in a delirious fit of fever.
I have noticed a few things myself. Most boys run their laps inside the fence before and after practice. David runs outside of the fence, so that he does not cut corners. Most slow down as they near the dugout; David presses on to the end. He is also one of the few players who consistently cheers his teammates by name when they are in the field and he is in the dugout. Somehow, he just naturally knows how to be a team player even though this is only the second team on which he as ever played!
Last week, two games crystalized my thinking. On Tuesday, David got his first "hit" in a game ever. The parents cheered him on, in spite of his track record at bat. His teammates encouraged him. The first pitch was a ball as was the second. Then he swung and got a strike. The pitcher wound up and threw a curve ball and whack! David got hit--not a hit, just a good, old wallop on the thigh! The crowd went wild, "Way to take one for the team!" The parents and team cheered as if David had hit a home run. I was puzzled about why people were so supportive because his accomplishments on the field are sparse.
Then, last night, the team lost a game by one point. David was so mad at himself because he struck out twice. I reminded him that only nine players showed up for the game. He has worked hard and showed up for every practice, even on Memorial Day when only five boys came. He showed up for every game, and, if he had skipped this game, the team would not even had a chance to play!
David occasionally grumbles out players who voice their lack of motivation when the team is losing or referring to themselves with the kind of slang that got Don Imus fired. Since he spends so much time in the dugout, he quietly tries to be a positive role model. We discuss factors that explain why some players lack sportsmanship. He is the only homeschooler on the team, so he tends to mix with both the private school and public school kids. It helps him to understand how peer pressure dampens personal initiative.
As I was driving home from a game, I noticed the character signs all over town. Businesses and churches support the schools in education. Every month is dedicated to a particular character trait, and oddly enough this month is good sportsmanship, which is "following all the rules of the game." Public speakers come to the schools to discuss the trait of the month. The newspaper features articles about this program. School websites provide character education links and character pledges to memorize. Now, I am all for character education because something has to be done about the moral vacuum in schools caused by driving the Bible out of public schools.
One of my listmates on Aut-2B-Home pointed out that people see David's character. The funny thing is that I have not taught character explicitly in a well-defined curriculum with core beliefs. Charlotte Mason wrote an entire book about forming character and believed in character could be trained through good habits (page 102):
'Sow an act,' we are told, 'reap a habit.' 'Sow a habit, reap a character.' But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.Ultimately, God, the source of these worthwhile ideas, has given them to us in the Word: Jesus and the Bible are the ultimate examples of living books. Then, I suddenly realized that David learned diligence from people like the Ingalls and the Moody families who worked hard to make ends meet. He learned how blessed he is after reading the struggles of two Jewish girls (Rifka and Esther) during war. He knows how kids talk out of ignorance from Tom and Huck and how it can cruelly affect others like Cassie. He has seen how pushing yourself beyond your limits pays off from Theodore Roosevelt and Michael Faraday.
P.S. Last night, David hit a beautiful ground ball, just inside the line to third base and made it to first. The crowd went wild and cheered as if it had been a homer!