From the Sidelines: From the mouths of babes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Over the last several weeks, dozens of the city&8217;s brightest young athletes who were selected to represent Demopolis in their various age groups have been hard at work in preparation for their respective moments in the sun. The 8U Cal Ripken team already claimed the District 10 title before bowing gracefully out of the state tournament Sunday.

The Terry Lay-coached team did a remarkable job serving as ambassadors for Demopolis, competing hard on the field and conducting themselves with class and dignity in the process during both the district and state tournaments. Their model is one that should be both applauded and emulated by teams still looking toward their tournament runs.

Now, two other Demopolis teams are in the midst of their quests to claim District 10 championships and follow their younger counterparts&8217; path to the state tournament.

The 10U and 12U teams will continue pool play through Thursday in hopes of qualifying for Friday&8217;s elimination rounds at the Sports-Plex. If successful in their bids to hoist the District 10 trophy, they will join the 9U and 11U teams that will be representing Demopolis at the state level.

In addition to the Cal Ripken teams, Demopolis&8217; Babe Ruth all-star teams have been chosen and are hard at work practicing for the coming District 10 tournaments. If the city&8217;s 14U team is successful at capturing the district title, it will play its state tournament games in a familiar setting at the Sports-Plex on July 19-22.

While the boys have done and will continue to do a tremendous job representing the city, the girls of the Dixie Youth all-star squads should also be recognized and commended for the manner in which they conducted themselves during the recent District 8 tournaments in Livingston.

Each team of young ladies carried with it a grace and poise beyond its years. Their conduct, spirit and sportsmanship did justice to the City of the People as they embodied the lessons coaches and parents labor to instill in young athletes.

Granted, no successful athlete ever takes the field without visions of winning a championship and no parent ever desires to witness their child lose a game. But what the young boys and girls of Demopolis&8217; respective recreational sports leagues have accomplished this summer is in no way diminished by any perceived lack of championships.

Aside from representing their city and respective households with due strength and maturity, these athletes have displayed the successful instilling of intangible characteristics that are at the very heart of youth sports. Their desire to perform at the highest level, willingness to congratulate opponents even during the course of a game, jubilation in obtaining victory and graciousness in withstanding defeat remain as beacons, guiding other athletes toward similar goals while signifying the successful collective effort of a caring community to better its young people.

Moreover, each of those intangibles serves as a reminder of the beauty, innocence and simplicity with which we should all strive to approach life. Watching a 7-year-old run the bases with unparalleled joy, seeing a 10-year-old high five an opponent at first base after an impressive hit, witnessing a 12-year-old unflappably dig in on the mound and fire strike after strike while encouraging the teammate whose errors have left him in a precarious position are all subtle and transcendent hints that sometimes life is a lot simpler than we allow it to be.

Sometimes, it is okay to enjoy the little victories like that 7-year-old does. Sometimes it is okay to look a competitor in the eye and honestly and sincerely admire their accomplishment like that 10-year-old would. Sometimes, when you&8217;re doing the best that you can and feel like the walls are closing in on you, it&8217;s okay to take a deep breath and encourage those around you before digging in and continuing to throw strikes. It&8217;s okay because, much like that 12-year-old, you&8217;ll eventually get yourself out of the inning.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times. You can reach him at 334-289-4017.