I’m pretty much a casual sports fan. I generally don’t follow any sport or team particularly closely, beyond a cursory reading of the sports page of the newspaper or news websites. But every once in a while, something comes along to make me sit up and take notice. Such an event happened yesterday.
Youth sports get a bad rap sometimes. We’ve all heard about the screaming coaches, or worse, the screaming parents, who sometimes do little more than berate kids who, when it comes down to it, just want to have fun on the field.
On the other side, fortunately, are people like Dave Belisle. He coaches the Cumberland, R.I. Americans Little League baseball team. He embodies, in my opinion, the essence of what all youth sports should be. Read on, and you’ll see why.
The Americans lost a heartbreaker 8-7 in the Little League World Series Monday night. The game was televised on ESPN. After the game, the team was devastated by the loss, and still on camera.
Coach Belisle’s words could make or break his team’s memories of the game and the tournament. His response was so letter-perfect, so inspirational, that it brought a tear to the eye of more than one adult watching it. He was still wearing an ESPN mic, which captured every word. Here’s the transcript, from ESPN’s website, of what Belisle told his team:
“Everybody heads up high, let’s talk for a moment here. Look, I gotta see your eyes, guys. There’s no disappointment in your effort. In the whole tournament, in the whole season, it’s been an incredible journey. Look at the score: 8-7, 12-10 in hits. It came to the last out, we didn’t quit.
“That’s us! Boys, that’s us. The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is because this is the last time I’m going to end up coaching you guys. But I’m going to bring back with me … and you guys are going to bring back, something that no other team can provide but you guys, and that’s pride. Pride.
You’re going to take back for the rest of your life what you provided for a town in Cumberland. You had the whole place jumping. You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. Because you wanna know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys that don’t quit. They like guys that play the right way.
“We got down to the nitty gritty, we’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second — the world!
“We need to go see our parents, because they’re so proud of you. I want everyone to come in here for one big hug and then we’re going to go celebrate. We’re going to celebrate with our parents, and then tomorrow we’re going to celebrate and come home to a big parade.
“I love you guys. I’m going to love you forever. You’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time. I’m getting to be an old man, I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys. You’re the boys of summer.
“So for the last time we’re going to try to suck it up and we’re going to yell ‘Americans.’
“One, two, three, Americans!”