Eli recently started playing tee-ball, and so far he really seems to love it. There are a lot of obvious benefits to him being on the team—he gets to play outside with kids his age, he’s learning how to hit, throw and catch, and he’s getting exposure to the great American pastime… even though they’re not exactly playing by the traditional rules.
See, there are no strikes. No outs. No score.
No winners. No losers.
And that’s fine. Do we really need to encourage a spirit of competition in five-year-olds? Isn’t the concept of “winning” far less important than the ideas of fundamentals and teamwork?
I suppose there’ll be plenty of time for all of that stuff later.
That said, the “rules” of tee-ball make for a rather interesting experience from the bleachers. Here’s how it works: there are three innings, and when each time is up, every single player gets to have an at-bat. Usually the kids get a few balls pitched to them that they try to hit, and if they miss, they get to hit it off the tee. So no matter how long it takes, every kid gets a hit. Whether it’s a line-drive deep to the outfield (a pretty rare occurrence) or a dribbler with no shot of leaving the infield (far more common), every kid stops at first base.
This continues until everyone on the team has had a chance to hit, with each kid advancing one base at a time.
The last batter effectively hits a “home run,” as with this at-bat, the kids are encouraged to round the bases.
Then the teams switch, and the kids who were just in the dugout take the field. The concept of “positions” isn’t entirely clear, and it becomes apparent that these kids aren’t quite ready for the real rules of the game. Innings would be over in seconds if no one could make contact with the ball, or they’d go on forever if the team in the field had to make three traditional outs.
In the end, I don’t believe that kids should be overly coddled and taught that no one ever wins or loses at anything. That’s simply not how the real world works. When we play games at home, sometimes Eli wins and sometimes he doesn’t, and we want him to understand that the more important thing is that you have fun while you play. And I assume that if he keeps going with organized sports, eventually there will come a day when scores are actually kept.
But until that day comes—my kid’s team is undefeated!!