Dear Little League® Fans, Families, Volunteers, and Players,
As we say goodbye to 2023, and welcome a new year, we are all looking forward to the exciting new ways we can grow as a youth sports organization, including the celebration of and the recent roll out of Little League’s new Organizational Identity.
With our newly defined core values – Community, Fun, Integrity, Inclusion, and Teamwork – in mind, I wanted to share with you a piece of my own Little League story after a conversation that I had with my son and grandchildren last summer. While these conversations are always meaningful to me personally, it also helped me better understand the most important aspects of their Little League experience from my role as Chairman of the Board.
I believe their responses, which are outlined below, can serve as an inspiration for all of us as we move forward into 2024 and work together to live out our core values so we can continue to give Little Leaguers® a fun, community-driven environment to play baseball and softball.
Having a Winning Attitude
At the top of my family’s list is the importance of learning to have a winning attitude. This really came to life for the first time when my grandsons learned how to lose gracefully while still having fun, being with friends, and learning something new. They also learned that having a “winning attitude” meant getting dirty, working hard, learning to manage emotions, controlling the controllables, believing in the coaches, and respecting the umpires.
My grandsons explained to me, “Baseball and softball are games of opportunity. Missing one opportunity, but being prepared for the next one, is core to a winning attitude.”
Next on the list is learning to work as a team. My grandsons made a point to emphasize the importance of sharing resources, taking turns, and understanding that people make mistakes. They emphasized that the importance of being kind to each other, regardless of ability or performance, was a key to successful teamwork.
The parents of players play an important role, as well, in helping them learn about teamwork, including setting a good example, the importance of creating positive coaching chemistry, having mutual respect with their players, and learning how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Nurturing a Sense of Humility
Then, there is nurturing the sense of humility that my son and his kids say comes from appreciating the fact that baseball and softball are games of fractions.
My family described the importance of staying in the moment, learning to forgive yourself, and moving on after a play – good or bad. “Afterall,” my youngest grandson noted, “even the best sluggers fail to get a hit 70% of the time.”
Finally, my family says Little League helped them better understand what it means to both feel and show gratitude. My grandsons reflected on how grateful they were for the time their parents, coaches, umpires, and grounds crews invested. Their parents expressed gratitude for the time the organization has invested in local leagues, and the many volunteers that continue to help make the Little League program work.
By the time my conversation with my family ended, I was reminded of three key things. First, the maturity and insight of my teenage grandchildren were both surprising and heartwarming. Second, whether you’ve been a player, parent of a player, coach, umpire, groundskeeper, or volunteer, your contribution matters to these kids and the communities that host them. Third, for young players and families playing baseball or softball through Little League, it is more than learning technical skills, it is about learning to be successful people for a lifetime.
As we move into 2024, I am excited and hopeful for the continued opportunity to bring positive Little League experiences to the players and their families of our program. On behalf of the entire Little League International Board of Directors, I wish you a Happy New Year and extend you a special thanks for being a part of the new chapter ahead.
Steven P. Johnson
Chairman, Little League International Board of Directors