By Liz DiLullo Brown, Little League Vice President of Marketing and Communications
Throughout the month of February, we once again recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of many of our female athletes and volunteers in support of National Women and Girls in Sports.
As we highlighted so many amazing stories, I couldn’t help but reflect on my time growing up playing sports and the many lessons that playing sports taught me.
The daughter of a coach, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to try different sports – many of them in the backyard, in the driveway, at the park, or just in the garage. The simple idea of sports “sampling” allowed me to try many different things, in organized leagues and through pick-up games.
Tennis, softball, soccer, gymnastics, ballet, track and field, field hockey. With so many sports and activities available, I couldn’t wait to go out and play. I remember being so excited at the chance to see my friends and meet new ones. Out of all the activities, the ones that focused on team dynamics were my favorite.
There were, however, times when my parents had to drag me there. When I didn’t want to go, I was quickly reminded of the idea that if you committed to something, you should stick it out. They also reminded me that people were counting on me to be there and I shouldn’t let the team down.
Many of the activities that I didn’t want to go to were a result of not feeling confident in myself. What I didn’t realize at the time was that building confidence came through practice and encouragement from not only coaches, but also from teammates. The vote of confidence from a teammate was sometimes even more important than the one from the coach.
At its core, my parents wanted us to enjoy physical activity. We learned to love the idea of a summer day in the backyard, playing with our friends, having a catch, or working on a new trick or skill. There were many summer afternoons I’d drive out to the high school field and practice my shots on goal because I wanted to be better and be better for the team.
Later in life, when sports became a part of my college career, being a part of a team took on a higher level of commitment, not only to the team but to juggling the many pressures that college life brings. Being a part of a team takes work. It takes commitment to a bigger goal. It requires a mindset that is not about self, but about being stronger together.
All these years later, I recognize that my college coach did an incredible thing for me. She helped me understand my role on the team and never stopped challenging us to get better. Different team members provide different skills, expertise, and support. Some brought personality and laughter. Others brought leadership and strategic thinking. While I wasn’t the star player, my role was still important and my coach made sure I knew that.
I enjoyed all the benefits of being on a team. For me, being a part of a team was about developing friendships, learning to laugh and grow from mistakes, and taking feedback and direction to improve. It taught me how to juggle many tasks, how to be present and focus, how to enjoy physical activity and exercise, and how to respect others. These are just some of the things that I now hope my children take away from their own sporting experiences, and why I have encouraged them to try new things and face new challenges.
Through sports, I learned so much about the importance of working as a team and about the roles each person can have on a team. As life progressed, the idea and dynamics of team have come full circle – whether it be developing and maintaining a team spirit at work, balancing the importance of family time and giving back through volunteering – I’m still a part of many different teams and my role on each one is different.
As the new Little League season begins, many volunteers will assume the role of coach this season and players will join new teams in search of having fun and meeting friends. I hope they all get the chance to experience this from their Little League season and learn so much more from this memorable time in their lives.