Play Ball: 5 things kids learn from Little League baseball

photo credit: getty imagesphoto credit: getty imagesWhile Major League Baseball is just getting into a groove, millions of kids playing Little League Baseball are approaching the end of their season. (Yes, millions! According to Little League, more than 2.5 million children played ball in the 2010 season.)

As a parent, I'm always shocked at how quickly the season goes by. Just when my kid's team has started to really look like a cohesive bunch, we're already looking at playoff schedules and the boys and girls are deciding which coaches to dunk in the dunk tank at Player Appreciation Day.

If you have a little one who's eager to get on the field next spring, it's a good time to pay attention to what's been happening throughout the Little League season in your town. You'll see a range of teams, with players who have big league dreams to kids who, in the third inning, are already thinking about what candy they're going to buy at the Snack Shack.

What do kids learn from playing Little League baseball? Well, it all depends on the coaching staff and the kids. Strong, fun coaches makes all the difference in a season. They can inspire or sadly, cause a kid to dislike the game or experience. But that's another post...

A big part of Little League is giving the kids a chance to pretend and feel like they are pro baseball players, which is a fun way to get them closer to that game as a fan. They also get a better understanding of the hard work involved in becoming a better player.

Overall, here are five things you can expect your kids to come away with over the course of a season:

  • Baseball Fundamentals: Ball, base, backup. Your kids will hear it over and over, regardless of the division they play. Players learn the importance of getting the ball, covering the bases, and backing up their teammates. They learn the basics of how to swing the bat, how to catch, how to pitch, and as they get older, how to avoid getting hit by a pitch.
  • Sportsmanship: Another Little League catch phrase, and part of the Little League pledge, is that players will "play fair" and play by the rules. And whether a teammate is a skilled ballplayer or a beginner struggling to make contact with the ball, the kids know to cheer on every single player on their team. As a parent, it's always heartwarming to watch the kids giving props to someone who just made an unexpected and/or cool play. Or better yet? When they cheer up a player who is having a bad game.
  • Teamwork: It takes nine players on a field to play the game, and they all know they need to work together to make big things happen on the field. It's amazing to watch the team develop and gel over the course of a season.
  • What It Means to Win and Lose: The Little League credo teaches kids that it doesn't matter if you win or lose; it's how you play the game. You'll see some coaches and players push scores and focus on winning. But I've seen many a team be downright happy with a loss because it was a well-played game, they worked hard, they did their best, and most importantly? They had fun doing it all and learn to let the loss roll off.
  • Friendship -- Kids on a team come from different schools and backgrounds, and by the end of the season, they've become true friends. If your kid has a terrible season on the field but makes a new buddy or two who develop into life long buddies? Totally worth it.

Does your child play Little League baseball? Does he/she enjoy it?