For those of us in the United States, baseball season is well under way, with the major league season at its midpoint. I love baseball season—warm sunshine, the smell of freshly cut grass, kids smiling and dancing in the stadium bleachers. Hot dogs always seem to taste best at a baseball game, don’t they?
As an avid fan of America’s pastime, it should come as no surprise that I contend that you can learn important life skills and lessons from the game of baseball. Baseball involves competition, strategy, and teamwork, all useful life skills, and teaches those who play it to win and lose with grace.
A batter gets three strikes before he is “out,” or four balls before he “walks.” In life, we are given multiple opportunities to accomplish our goals, if only we keep our “eye on the ball” and are motivated enough to keep trying. In baseball, there are multiple ways to get on base, just as in life there is usually more than one way to accomplish a goal. In both cases, it takes patience, focus, and intent. Often in life, things don’t “just happen.” Motivation and intention serve as catalysts in helping us achieve our goals.
What fuels motivation and intention with regard to accomplishing a goal? A sense of meaning or having a stake in the outcome. Meaning, or making meaning, drives us.
In baseball, there are nine defensive positions, with each having defined duties and responsibilities. The nine people manning these positions work together each inning toward a shared objective of three outs. The ability to work as a team involves understanding and embracing your unique talents and skills, and applying those talents and skills when and how needed for the benefit of the group or common objective.
Positions can change in any given context. Unless you live by yourself on a deserted island, there are various teams you are a part of in your everyday life. Probably the most important team you are a part of is your family. Inherent in family life are our roles (or “positions”), and those roles dictate our responsibilities in and to our family.
Unless you live by yourself on a deserted island, there are various teams you are a part of in your everyday life. Probably the most important team you are a part of is your family.
As we grow older, our responsibilities change. As children, we are taken care of by our parent(s); as parents age, children often find themselves in a responsibility shift wherein they are taking care of their parents.
Baseball games are full of strategy, from who will play where to the batting order to whether to swing away or bunt to when to pull the pitcher. Strategies are also employed in everyday life in order for a family team or work team to succeed or run smoothly. Such strategies play out in myriad simple or complex ways, from who will pick up the kids to how to meet a team project deadline. Discovering and appreciating our talents and how we can best “play our position” or contribute to our family/work life is an important life skill. Working together is key for any kind of team or unit to succeed—families included.
Finally, in baseball, no matter how well everyone plays, one team wins and one loses. Just as succeeding is a part of life, so is failing. One of the most important lessons baseball (or any sport) can teach us is how to win or lose—how to succeed or fail without letting either outcome define you. Because neither one should.
Life is full of wins and losses. Getting into college, a job promotion, and finding true love are happy life experiences that might generally be considered wins. But meaningful relationships sometimes end, people lose jobs, and there will be illnesses and deaths of loved ones. Just as in a championship baseball game, losing is often harder than celebrating a win. Just as a team that loses a hard-fought game will regroup and come out and play another game, those who experience painful losses can regroup and wake up to a new day. The loss is still there, and nothing will change that, but something generally can be learned from the experience of loss.
Baseball teams learn from losing all the time. Often, losses in life can teach us our most valuable lessons and give us our greatest strengths.
So next time you are taking in a baseball game, think of the correlations between the game and life … and enjoy every inning of both!