As the mercury rises and summer shifts into full swing, a right of passage for many area youth is well underway.
For the children and parents in our communities, summer isn't necessarily about sipping tea on the back porch, freshly mown grass, fishing or even a trip to the local swimming hole.
It's about youth sports. Babe Ruth and Little League baseball is in full swing and will be followed closely by tee-ball and Legion baseball.
In fact, the Elkins 9-10 year old Little League team is playing for a spot in the state tournament today after an impressive 36-0 win over Craigsville and a come-from-behind victory over Braxton in the District 8 Tournament. Elkins will play Summersville at 5:30 p.m. today in Summersville.
Also, the Elkins Fordland Babe Ruth team claimed the City Tournament championship 13-3 over Elkins Suzuki on Sunday.
And, Legion baseball has a full slate of games this week, including Elkins at Buckhannon at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Success aside, youth baseball - and summer athletics at any level - isn't just a distraction or time filler in the summer months.
Summer sports not only help to lay a solid foundation for future athletic endeavors, they help to instill a sense of teamwork, sportsmanship and camaraderie to all who partake - parents included.
During my tee-ball days, I learned a variety of life lessons, not the least of which was the importance of having passion for the game and not necessarily focusing on the win-loss column.
My tee-ball coach - George Fenton - always would say, "We are only as strong as our weakest link." That little saying has stuck with me over the years and - thus far - has served me extremely well.
It's not that my coach was picking on the weak or not-so-talented guy, it's that collectively, we all had an interlocking role to play in our own success. Even without our most talented players, if we stuck together - win or lose - we still came out on top.
While a healthy competitive nature is key to excelling at sports - and all things in life for that matter - regardless of the final score, life nor death hinges upon the final outcome.
Athletics - and youth sports in particular - are meant to be played for fun. They are meant to improve both the mind and body. They even can be a way to socialize and prepare children for non-athletic undertakings.
Games are just that - a fleeting moment in time that pits two teams against one another.
What truly matters and defines us in both sports and life is that we show up and give it our absolute best.
No matter the result, everyone finishes a winner.
- Executive Editor Matthew Burdette can be reached at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.