Fans of Cumberland American, the Northeast region’s entry to the Little League World Series, surely didn’t want the Rhode Island team to lose its elimination game on Monday. But a silver lining to the 8-7 loss was the moving speech coach David Belisle delivered to his players just after the game — a reminder, amid complaints about outsized pressure on young athletes, that youth sports, under the right stewardship, can truly teach valuable lessons.
ESPN cameras captured the miserable looks on the faces of Belisle’s 12- and 13-year-old players, as their coach kneeled on the grassy field beside them. Belisle’s words, in response, were pitch-perfect. “Heads up high,” he said, urging the boys to take pride in their accomplishments and the fighting spirit that won them so many supporters. Then he implored them to have fun as the series went on, to celebrate with their parents, and to treasure their friendships.
“It’s OK to cry. Because we’re not gonna play baseball anymore. But we’re gonna be friends forever,” Belisle said. He ended by asking the teammates to give him a hug. They piled on.