Baseball Benefits Girls In Surprising Ways

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Math was always my worst subject. I’ve often said every thing I know about math I learned from baseball.

Baseball is loaded with statistics. Batting average, winning percent, velocity, match-ups. If a girl has the tiniest bit of baseball curiosity she will learn math. Does she want to know her batting average? She needs math. Does she want to know how many games her team needs to win to make the playoffs? She needs math. Even if she isn’t on the field playing she will still use math as a scorekeeper, umpire, or even bat girl. Baseball includes frequent use of fractions, percentages, and probability. Sabermetrics is now turning math geeks into well paid sports gurus in the front office. Students at Syracuse University can earn a degree in Sports Analytics.

The statistics continue to show girls are not encouraged to pursue or learn science. In many ways baseball is physics. How does a pitcher make a baseball hang in mid-air? Why does the baseball appear to curve? Does it actually curve? How many seconds does a batter have to look at the ball before deciding to swing? How long does it take to swing at a baseball? Why is it important to keep your hands back and  let the barrel of the bat lead when you swing? Science. Physics. Math. Baseball is replete with math and science! A girl who is interested in baseball will learn math and science.

A girl who is motivated to get information will seek it. Baseball motivates us and provides us with opportunities to seek and become enriched with answers.

Baseball is also a team sport requiring individual perseverance, determination, and skill. This means girls have consistent opportunities to shine as individuals while cooperating as a member of a team. Even when sitting on the bench players are expected to pick up bats, pick up equipment, cheer on their teammates, play catch with teammates to warm them up, help keep the scorecard, pay attention to the pitch count, and many other tasks. People who claim baseball is a dull sport are not IN the game.

Baseball requires the development of leadership skills. The opportunity to be a leader may come when a player goes up to bat. It may also arrive when they start to turn a double play. It can happen when a teammate is hurt and a non-starter is substituted. A player will have opportunities to call off other players and make a catch. Each game players have multiple opportunities to gain and exhibit leadership skills. This doesn’t even take into consideration the many opportunities to be a leader as part of the team during practices. By encouraging teammates, practicing hard, and including the whole team in the game, girls demonstrate leadership skills.

Childhood obesity is at an all time high in the United States. We tend to underestimate the toll on our health when we do not get up and move. Juvenile diabetes, difficulty even walking, lack of physical coordination, depression, sleep disorders, and much more can be linked to lack of physical activity. Binge watching tv has become something to brag about. Video games, texting, and social media all tend to encourage people to be sedentary. By being involved in baseball, girls are getting outdoors. They get doses of natural Vitamin D from the sun. They are moving instead of sitting still.  Baseball gives girls a reason to be active and care about their health.

Baseball also gives girls opportunities socialize face-to-face with peers and potential mentors.As a team member you learn to recognize the positives others bring to the team, cooperate, take turns, put yourself second, listen to others, and be a good winner and loser. A good coach knows teaching youth to be good sports is the most valuable lesson to be taught in sports. Good players learn they can help their team win by helping each other out. Beating each other up, bullying, and negativity brings the team down. Positive attitudes make for winning teams.

Through participation in baseball, girls have opportunities to have positive adult mentors. For many families, baseball is a tradition. Families will play catch together, go to games together, celebrate wins and encourage each other after losses, and follow favorite teams together. For many of us, our favorite childhood memories involve baseball.

Score keeping is an art form! Some scorekeepers will even color code their score card in their individual style. There are some fundamental rules for keeping score of a game. However, keeping score is largely an individual pursuit. Some keep track of the pitch count. Others keep track of fouled off pitches. It is very individual. The important thing to remember is keeping score on a card is a way of recording a story. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was taught by her dad to fill out a score card. She grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan when Jackie Robinson triumphantly broke the color barrier in baseball. When her dad got home from work she would relate the story of the game to her dad in vivid detail by referencing her score card. She had no idea her dad had listened to the game on the radio and knew the outcome. He taught her a valuable, life long lesson. As an award winning historian she still tells stories which captivate people.

By keeping score and playing the game, you learn the rules. You also learn the rules by being an umpire. Umpires need to know the intricacies of the rule book in widely variant situations. They also need to be able to keep their cool, think logically, and be fair in sometimes heated situations. They need to know the rules in thousands of different situations which may arise during a game. They wear equipment including masks in very hot weather yet must be well positioned to see plays so they can get the call right. They also have to keep calm when a parent or player loses their cool. Umpires are the quiet warriors and heroes of baseball. Some of the baseball people I admire the most are umpires. Students and adults can make good money umpiring baseball games locally. Most recreation centers are in need of good umpires. And, more and more women are making a career out of umpiring youth, high school, and now college and professional baseball. Minor league baseball and major league baseball are actively recruiting female umpires. They are starting to understand the importance and value of breaking the gender barrier in umpiring. NOW is the perfect time for girls to get involved in umpiring.

Some people assert, “Why baseball? These girls can gain the same skills playing softball.” Softball and baseball are different cultures. In softball girls where tight, short, more revealing uniforms. Many players wear bows in their hair. They do cheers. Visors are typically preferred over baseball hats or no head wear at all (it might mess up the hair). Baseball players are known for wearing baggier clothing which reveals less skin. Baseball hats are mandatory for all players. Female baseball players often develop their own look. Some wear makeup or partial makeup on the field. Many do not. Cheers are kept to huddles.

In many ways the culture of softball reinforces stereotypes of girls. Not every girl fits into these stereotypes or WANTS to fit into these stereotypes.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of playing baseball for girls is confidence. Right now girls playing baseball are in the minority. Tee ball can include a good mix of boys and girls. As they get older girls get directed towards softball and boys are expected to pursue baseball. The pressure for girls to pursue softball NOT baseball is intense. It’s difficult to describe just how intense it is. The girls who prefer to play baseball and have the courage to pursue their sport learn many valuable lessons quickly. They learn to follow their dreams and not let someone else define them. They learn to believe in themselves. They find a support network to lift them up. They learn to trust themselves. They learn to delve deep into themselves to tap into resources some people never discover in their lifetimes. The most confident girls I have ever seen collectively were girls playing together on a baseball team. It made an impression on me I will not forget.

The game  of baseball necessitates learning skills which build confidence. A batter who steps up to the plate expecting to strike out probably will. Players learn to keep their head in the game. The team that keeps their heads high while the other team second guesses themselves or fall into yelling at each other will probably win..

Baseball players must learn to concentrate. Baseball players have to be aware of the changing situation on the field and think ahead. Players have seconds or less than a second to react to swing a bat or catch a ball. They have to learn to anticipate what will happen and be prepared to react purposefully. Youth today are often distracted by electronic devices and expect to be entertained constantly. I’ve argued long distance car rides as a kid with no movies to distract me was a tremendous benefit to me as an adult.  A girl who learns to pay attention to the pitch count, number of outs, and positions of the infielders will always have an edge. She will also develop a mental acuity which will serve her well in life.

Kat Williams has written a book titled ‘Life After the League’ about the lives of women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940’s and 1950’s. A surprising number of these women went on to be leaders and experience great success in other areas of life. They all attribute their experience in baseball as an important factors in their success.By creating opportunities for girls in baseball, we are extending greater opportunities for the rest of their lives so they can become self-actualized women.

Photos taken at the Baseball for All 2016 Nationals in San Francisco, CA of the LA Monarchs team.

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