My son's baseball team for 8-year-olds was out on the field.
This normally well-oiled, tough-as-nails team was falling apart before our eyes.
The players couldn't catch a fly ball. They couldn't stop a grounder. Their frustration and despair was rising with every new batter.
When the inning was finally over (due to the maximum amount of runs scored in an inning rule) the boys came trudging off the field.
As their sad faces and hung heads reached the gate to go into the dugout, all the parents in our stands began to clap and cheer them on.
"That's OK boys! Let's get some hits!"
"Forget about it! Time to score some runs!"
One by one, the frowns were replaced with smiles and their heads were held high with determination.
Amazing what a little encouragement will do.
Just as ball teams want the home-team advantage, our children need a home-team advantage as well.
There is a whole world out there ready to tell children everything they can't do or shouldn't even attempt to try. But in the quiet, confines of home, all their potential and possibilities can be explored and developed.
It starts as a small child, when encouraging parents cheer an unstable, uncertain toddler to walk and talk.
Moving into the preschool years, encouragement becomes paramount to a child's personal development.
Three-year-old David "cleaned up" his bedroom one day.
Pulling me into the room, he showed me his handiwork.
All the toys had been picked up off the floor all right. He had dutifully thrown them all on his bed.
Trying to stifle my laughter, I called the other boys in to witness David's accomplishment.
"I cleaned up," he announced to his brothers. "It almos' goes up to da sky," he said proudly, stretching his hand up as high as it would go.
They all nodded in agreement, stifling their own laughter.
One of them started to tell David what he had done wrong. I quickly hushed him.
David didn't need to be reprimanded. He needed guidance. Together, we placed the toys on the shelves. Now, David knows how to "clean up."
Children need a home-team advantage during the school years most of all.
The pressures are many. The expectations are high. Not being good enough seems to be a school-age motto.
My 10-year-old became discouraged a few months ago.
Being a lover of golf, I used a Tiger Woods analogy for him.
"Tiger Woods is a great golfer," I said.
"The best," Phil responded.
"Do you think he wins every hole?" I asked.
Slowly, he answered, "No."
"So, on any given hole, somebody might beat him," I continued. "Even you, on a certain day at a certain hole might beat Tiger."
While he contemplated that thought, I drove my point home.
"Tiger is 'the best' because on any given hole he does his best. Win or lose, he leaves one hole behind and moves on to the next to do his best again."
Seeing the light of understanding shining in his eyes, I concluded, "So you see, you don't have to be 'the best.' You have to do your best. That makes you 'good enough' for everything."
A subtle task
I wasn't standing up and cheering. I wasn't yelling his greatness from a public announcement system.
Giving your child the home-team advantage is often a quiet, subtle word or even simply an encouraging look.
Of course, sometimes the home-team advantage does require cheering and yelling.
My 8-year-old's baseball team didn't win the game that day.
Though the team lost, the members didn't feel like losers. They knew, no matter what, they had the home-team advantage.