As a parent (of two boys without disabilities), I have noticed that competition is a big part of exclusion. The survival of the fittest, best man wins, or super athlete seem to characterize the child that will be the center of an athletic team. I can definitely say that it has increased tremendously as my children have gotten older. The 4-5 year old little league games pale in comparison to my now 9-year-old son’s “minor” games. The parents can be fiercely critical in their comments and lack support when these kids get out on that field. At the end of one of my son’s games, he was the last one up to bat, and the score was 8 to 9 with two outs. He got up there knowing what was expected of him, and he gave it his best, but he struck out. He was then the perfect target for the children (who are less than kind) to say he was the reason they lost. My son loves baseball, and to me, that is all that matters. He is not a star, or even one of the top five players on his team, but he truly loves the game. This is what I asked him after the game…
How many outs were there when you got up to bat?
Did you make those outs?
Are you the only one on your team that struck out?
Is baseball a game you play by yourself?
That’s right; it’s a team sport and not one person is responsible for losing or winning. It is played as a team.
Inclusion is a team sport; no one person can be responsible for making it work or responsible for its failure. Everyone has to practice and work together to have success. When one member of the team is criticized, instead of supported, the framework will fail. Then, no one will be successful. The dynamic of the team, and how they work together, is key to the success of everyone involved.
One day my son will hit the ball out of park. It will happen. The pitch, the swing, the outfield, the breeze, the stars will all be aligned. And it will happen. But when it does, it will be because he is part of a supportive team, not because he is the best player.
–Written by Nili Matthews, KIT Lead Trainer
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.