I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of T-ball. You know the game. Baseball or softball. Kids, 6-7 years old. Or younger. For most, their first foray into team sports.

My kids played. I don’t remember much about liking it or disliking it. It was almost like it was something that kids were supposed to do. The All-American sport and all that, I suppose.

I’m not sure when the game and I had a falling out. It probably wasn’t anything specific. I just sort of decided that it was largely a waste of time. Lots of standing around. Kids playing in the infield dirt. Long periods of inactivity then bursts of very brief activity. Too much standing around waiting for it to promote an active lifestyle.

None of my first five grandkids showed any interest in T-ball. And then came along Grandkid No. 6. I don’t know if it was his idea or his parents’. I just know that he is the cutest thing you ever saw out there with his Yankees uniform on. (Sidenote: His dad played for the Yankees in his first year of T-ball).

This is a pretty special kid. He was born quite premature, weighing only 3 pounds, 2 ½ ounces at birth. He was supposed to spend six weeks in the NICU at Children’s Hospital but he got out before that. I still have vivid memories of this tiny thing in an incubator that was about the size of a squirrel.

Let me tell you that he has overcome that slow start. Just pick him up sometime. Oh. My. Goodness. The boy is thick. Not fat, but if he plays football, he will play with his hand in the dirt. And he will talk your ear off. Off-the-scale perceptive.

And playing T-ball at Maryville Little League. I agree with somebody that observed coaching T-ball was like herding cats but after watching a game on Saturday, I’ve come to really enjoy T-ball. Not just because I have one out there but for the lessons that are learned.

Think about this — you’re taking a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds, getting them where they are supposed to be, and (mostly) getting them to pay attention. Where else are you going to get that?

Oh, they’re still playing at the dirt, completely surprised when a batted ball rolls by them. And I’ve yet to see a successful throw to first for an out. Or a caught fly ball. But I’ve seen energy and enthusiasm and team spirit. And coaches that know that this year of T-ball is not going to make or break their kid’s athletic career.

Whether or not they learn baseball (or softball) skills is not really important. What they are learning is eye/hand coordination and how to throw and catch something. They learn a little bit about what it is to be a part of a team. They hopefully learn that it is OK to cheer for somebody to do something well, even if they are on the other team.

They’re learning how to be where they’re supposed to be. They’re learning what it means to “run home” even though that concept can be quite confusing. They’re learning simple skills and that mistakes have consequences. And, yes, they’re beginning to learn life skills.

I was never in favor of games where they don’t keep score. Keeping score gives a game structure and parameters. The kids usually know what the score is anyway. But for these kids, knowing who “won” and who “lost” doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as the game is over, all they want to do is get to the post-game snacks.

Just like kids forever.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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