Softball Fosters Teamwork Between Students and Staff

September 28, 2020
Cottage staff and students participate in intramural softball as part of the Boys Republic program. Sports are integrated into the program to help the teens develop a variety of interpersonal and social skills, as well as improve their overall health.

In the heat of the afternoon, there is silence on the softball field. Thirty boys and their cottage staff watch in anticipation as the batter approaches the home plate. The pitcher, one of the staff members from Laws Cottage, pauses for a beat and then with a burst of speed, hurls the ball forward.

Crack! the ball flies towards the outfield. The batter takes off.

“Run, run, run!” shout his teammates urging him on. Some of the boys in the dugout have leapt to their feet. McCormick Cottage delightedly whoops, hollers, and claps as two of their players manage to run home. Everyone on the field is alternately shouting encouragement to their teammates and engaging in good-natured ribbing with the opposing team. All of the boys are animatedly chattering and fidgeting, but they settle back down again as the next batter approaches the base.

“Hey, good job,” says one student patting his out-of-breath teammate on the back. “Yeah, that was a good run,” adds one of the staff. Breathing heavily, his teammate plops down on the seat and turns his attention to the game. They all watch intently as one of the cottage staff prepares to bat.

Softball is the only intramural sport at Boys Republic that the cottage staff also participate in. For the students, playing sports with their supervisors reinforces the idea that the cottage staff are on ‘their side’ because they are on the same team working towards the same goal. The boys begin to realize that it is okay to rely on other people and that winning is much easier when the team works together. This exposure to working as a team helps the students to be more open to working with their staff in other aspects of the program.

Many of our students have not participated in organized sports before coming to Boys Republic and, for the majority, the idea of teamwork and good sportsmanship had never been introduced to them. However, over the course of the season, cottage staff can model what good sportsmanship looks like. The students then begin to pick up on the behaviors that are expected of athletes. They can be seen to progress from taunting their teammates to giving words of encouragement like “try again” and “you got this”. They begin to empathize with their teammates’ mistakes instead of reacting in anger. Playing softball with their cottage staff gives the students a low-risk way to observe proper peer relationships and the opportunity to put their observations into practice.

Beyond the obvious physical health benefits, intramural sports are part of the Boys Republic program because they help develop interpersonal and social skills. The ability to be a team player, have a positive attitude, and effectively communicate are byproducts of organized sports that will help these teens when they leave school and return to the community. This kind of training is essential to help guide young men to successful, conventional lives.