When mothers and fathers enroll their children in a sport like baseball, most of them do so out of family tradition, because one of their ancestors played this sport. Therefore, the desire of the family to reproduce this moment with their children becomes more and more latent, because baseball is not only a sport but also part of the family culture.

By Karla Ivonne Mijangos Fuentes

On the other hand, we must not forget that many of the children sign up for baseball because it is a sport that attracts their attention. After all, it is a place where they can meet their friends from school, and simply because they think that they can offer a little of their time to develop their world through a game of baseball.

In this sense, during some of the training sessions we were able to experience with children from Miahuatlán, a community in the south of Oaxaca, Mexico, we were able to listen to the manager and physical trainer of the “Cueruditos Miahuatlán de 9 a 10 años” team, Professor Edwin Cabrera Medina, who pointed out that he not only trains baseball players but also people. A sentence that challenged and questioned us about the fundamental value and health that the development of a sport like a baseball implies for children because anthropology has taught us that a sport is the reproduction of a culture and that the situated way in which a sport like a baseball is taught and played can help us to understand and transform a world, especially when we talk about childhood.

With this in mind, the REHUNO team set out to talk to two baseball players, physical education teachers, and sports coaches, Edwin Cabrera Medina and Hamurabi Mijangos Fuentes, so that they could briefly explain to us the impact that working with a sport such as baseball has on children, and how this exercise can contribute to the mental, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children.

Image by Karla Mijangos

REHUNO: How should we think about and work with sport in early childhood?

Professor Hamurabi Mijangos says that, as a sports teacher, you first need to know the children’s and parents’ objectives for the chosen sport, i.e. if the children just want to learn the sport (formative part). And then “we only act as mediators of knowledge”, the teacher points out. On the other hand, if the focus is on competition (specific disciplinary training), the children must understand the role they play and the responsibility they have for the position they are going to play, without going to extremes of stressing the child.

Master Hamurabi says that he differs from other writers and sports coaches because he first advises that the child should try several sports during childhood, and with time they will choose the sport they like best, and as long as this happens, sports practice is encouraged in them. From the age of 6, sports activities can be practiced that promote the rules of the game, such as the number of strokes, the way the ball is hit, etc., which are so important for the social development of children.

In this respect, teacher Edwin Cabrera agrees that the approach should be formative for the initiation to sport, and specifically to promote the taste and the small seed in the children. The teacher points out that “the coach sees the child from the competition and there confirms that the child likes sports, not only baseball, this last element is important because the sporting competition is what helps the child get out of their comfort zone and it is there that the teacher provides the means for the child to learn and enjoy through the game, as well as promoting and applying values such as respect and the habit of sport”.

Likewise, teacher Edwin comments that the sedentary lifestyle of children is a serious problem that has worsened with the pandemic, and as a result, there is a lot of psychomotor retardation at all ages, so the teacher believes that

“we need to intensify the work on the motor, cognitive and emotional development, as well as discipline and values, because as coaches we are training athletes, but also people”.

REHUNO: What challenges do you work on with the children through baseball?

Edwin was quick to point out: “For me, the main challenge is that the children learn to listen, to obey and to coordinate, because that’s where everything starts, to form discipline, to work on biomechanics, teamwork because if I listen well, I’ll be able to double play and make the assists correctly. So, the challenge is for them to listen, to understand and to get the message, to learn to defend themselves in the game”.

In this respect, Master Hamurabi points out that the children are taught the forms and rules of the game during the training sessions, but it is they who decide how to resolve the sporting situation in the end and during the game, and they learn from their decisions, because they realize what they should do and what they should not do, or they realize that they can do it differently.

However, Master Hamurabi recognises that the challenge in baseball and other sports is to develop collective work on health-related aspects such as the prevention of obesity and overweight; the practice of healthy habits (healthy eating); hygiene habits; discipline; perseverance; the promotion of values such as teamwork and problem-solving; the management of emotions (what happens when we win or lose? What if I strike out? What if I hit a home run?); physical and psychological development and socialization.

REHUNO: Why do you think baseball allows a child to develop mentally and emotionally?

Master Hamurabi points out that “when children play sports, their concentration improves regularly, their visual and motor coordination is more efficient, they sleep better, so their academic performance and emotional stability are better”. He goes on to say that sport gives children the opportunity to acquire values, skills, and personal abilities that improve their social skills, their ability to adapt to the world and solve problems, as well as their emotional stability when they lose or win, i.e. they work on their frustration tolerance.

Professor Hamurabi concludes his answer by pointing out that a sporting discipline such as baseball helps to reduce sedentary behavior and depression, creates discipline and consistency, compliance and respect for rules, and increases the capacity for empathy, confidence, self-esteem, autonomy, and independence.

Professor Edwin replies that in baseball the child works in a team, socializes, and experiments because when the child makes mistakes or learns, he or she cannot do things and gets frustrated. However, when the child hits or catches a ball, he or she is excited and motivated to continue, especially when supported by the rest of his or her classmates. Teacher Edwin agrees with Professor Hamurabi that baseball promotes motor, affective, socio-cultural, experimental intuitive, and inter-relational development, in general, baseball opens many doors.

REHUNO: What final advice would you give to children to help them develop fully in baseball?

“We come to be ballplayers and people, so if you are not humble, if you do not listen and obey, you will not get far, as they say, he who does not listen to advice does not grow old. Says Professor Edwin. He also urges the children not to slow down, to experiment, to question themselves, to work a lot on their coordination because baseball is very fast, to make a difference in front of their peers, and to be disciplined because constant training will make them excel. And he adds that all these characteristics can make a difference in front of a national team or in front of any space where they are presented.

Likewise, Master Hamurabi invites the children to have fun and enjoy themselves to learn from sport, and this means that the children have an affinity with this sporting discipline, without end, because at the end of the day, it is the children who are the ones who build knowledge that they will make their own and practical for life. “And always give the best of each one of them in the things that are presented in the form of sport,” says Professor Hamurabi.

REHUNO: Finally, we would like to ask you to tell us about the greatest satisfaction you have received as a coach.

“It is nice to have trophies, medals, to win first places, but from my point of view, the most important thing is to see the smiles of the students when they practice sports. And that they will continue to play sports with their families in the future, that’s the best trophy for me,” says Professor Hamurabi.

“In the future, my greatest satisfaction will be when I can coach my son’s team and we become champions, but for now, one of my greatest satisfactions is when that child says thank you at some point, or when a new child does well at something they have worked so hard at in training. I want my children to be tough, disciplined, and humble. Master Edwin ends by saying

REHUNO: Thank you for your attention and your answers.