Little League needs to learn something

Playing Little League is a learning experience.

Whether they play baseball or softball, kids learn the fundamentals of the game along with the importance of hard work, teamwork and sportsmanship.

The Atlee, Virginia, Junior League softball team got a harsh lesson about that last part of it a few days ago. The girls, ages 12 to 14, had fought their way into the World Series after defeating the host team from Kirkland, Washington.

This should’ve been a cause for celebration as this was an impressive achievement.

Instead, some of the girls did something stupid.

They went to social media and decided to take a photo of themselves flashing their middle fingers on Snapchat. The photo was directed at the Kirkland team with the words “watch out host” plastered on it and it quickly grabbed people’s attention.

The photo was eventually deleted, but the damage was done. The Atlee head coach attempted to rectify the situation by telling his players to apologize in person to the Kirkland squad and tried to explain their actions, saying that his team was responding to some harassment that Kirkland had dispensed to them.

A Kirkland baserunner had been ejected during the game for stealing Atlee’s signals and one of their coaches was ejected as well.

However, the Virginia team coach’s explanation fell flat and the apology wasn’t enough for the Little League International Tournament Committee, which disqualified Atlee from the tournament.

That controversial decision was then made worse by having Kirkland replace Atlee in the World Series. Think about that for a minute. The LLITC’s idea to fix this problem was to not only kick out the offending team, but place a team that lost in the semifinals in the championship. That’s a bizarre way of looking at things.

There were other ways to respond to the incident, but the LLITC was so eager to send a message that they sent a worse one.

They punished an entire team, when it was only a handful of girls who participated in the picture. They also rewarded a squad that had already lost and had also engaged in unsportsmanlike behavior with a trip to the championship. Huh?

The committee could have accepted the apology, but still condemned what Atlee did. If they felt like they needed to go further, they could’ve suspended the girls in the photo and had them sit on the bench during the championship. That would’ve been the better solution. If Atlee lost, it would’ve shown the girls that their terrible choice cost their team a title, and if it had won, it would’ve showed that they were meant to win all along.

I used to teach and supervise kids, from infants up to high school seniors, and I can tell you one absolute truth. Kids will do dumb things sometimes. However, how the adults handle it determines if the lesson is learned.

Instead of making the girls see what they did wrong, the committee gave them an opportunity to blame it for the harsh punishment instead of blaming themselves.

Little League strives to teach life lessons on the field, but all it did this time was teach kids to blame others for your misfortunes.

Hopefully, the organization has learned something from this experience and it won’t likely make the same decision again.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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