Umpire heckling inappropriate for Little League game

Posted: Tuesday, June 03, 2003

In 1975, when I was pregnant with my second daughter, my doctor gave me a packet of goodies for new mamas. Inside that packet was tucked a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte.

I often find the words of that poem going through my head. It starts out:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

These words come to me whenever I see a child being wronged in some way when I hear harsh words being shouted to them, or simply being shouted in front of them, even if those words are not aimed at them.

These words came to my mind recently at a Little League game. One team was behind by eight runs. Each inning saw more and more dejection on their faces as they came out onto the field or up to bat. This, despite the family members on their team giving them supportive comments such as "that's OK," "you can do it," and so forth.

They were getting a lot of support, weren't they? It didn't matter to the families that their team was behind in runs. These families have been watching their team members grow in the sport since that first chilly T-ball game. They have been supporting them and cheering for them and loving them in wins and losses.

No, the reason for the dejection was certain "should be" adults in the audience who chose time and again to harangue the umpires for what they perceived to be bad calls.

They could not be convinced even with the Little League Rule Book that while they might know the sport of baseball, they did not know everything about the rules of Little League play.

Toward the end of the game the first group of family members were beginning to succeed in raising smiles out of the team as they came out to bat.

However, the same "should be" adults continued to loudly call out comments deriding the umping staff. At the end of the game when other parents and family members confronted these same "should be" adults their comments were that they had a right to their opinions.

I agree however, I also think that, as "should be" adults, they should choose their forum for such derision. Perhaps an Oilers game? Or perhaps a big league game Outside? Then they would be among similarly minded "should be" adults and on a fair playing field.

You see, children certainly live what they learn. They learn from what they hear, even if it is not aimed at them. If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty. If children live with approval they learn to like themselves.

I recall seeing an advertisement in this very newspaper seeking umpires for Soldotna's Little League program. There are at least two "should be" adults who should run right down to apply. Oh, they might have a bit to learn by the book, and they might need some thicker armor to protect them from jibes of other "should be" adults, but I have a pretty good idea that they feel themselves to be much more qualified than the other umpires in the league currently. I strongly encourage them to put their abilities where they feel they are needed: on staff.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.*

"Children Learn What They Live" by Dorothy Law Nolte.

Barbara Waters


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