This is taken from the October 2022 Newsletter.
I am a former tennis player of sorts – and HUGE tennis fan.
A couple weeks ago, my sports idol – Roger Federer – announced his retirement. It was a major moment in the tennis world, and in my own world.
Another favorite among tennis players is Andre Agassi, and his autobiography: Open was a great read.
His life has been quite the roller coaster of failure and success – happiness and misery – rebellion and conformity. He outlines his love and hate for tennis as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with quality people to guide you through life’s decisions.
If you enjoy tennis, I think you’ll love this book. Even if you don’t enjoy tennis or sports in particular, it is a pretty unfiltered look at what kinds of things go on in the lives of professional athletes. Highly recommend it.
Words of Wisdom
Speaking of sports…
My 7-year-old boy made it to the championship game in his little league baseball tournament last week. His team was undefeated and all of us parents were very excited about it (probably more so than the kids). My son’s team was going against another undefeated team in this championship game.
Now, you need to understand that these are 5-7 year olds. It’s machine pitch. Most of the kids are just learning the game and trying to have fun. Some are rolling around in the outfield and several times a game the coaches will need to remind two of our little guys to stop wrestling in the outfield, or drawing designs in the dirt, or any number of distracting activities that have us holding on for dear life as a baseball goes screaming past their head.
It’s actually quite entertaining to watch. If you’re a baseball purist, you might be pulling your hair out during most of the game… but every once in a while… something magical happens. One of the kids rolls over in the dirt. Stands up. Fields a ball and hucks it to first base where his little friend holds out his glove, closes his eyes, and mutters, “please catch it… please catch it” and makes the play. And usually, the parents of both teams are cheering wildly for every good play, including players on the other team.
… until you get to the championship game.
I don’t know what it is about youth sports, but it can turn otherwise calm, peaceful, loving human beings into absolute lunatics.
I’ve been around a lot of athletic events. A LOT. And I have never seen a coach manipulate the rules of a sporting event quite like the coach of this opposing team. He and his players seemed to know every little, dirty trick in the book that would trip one of our runners while they ran the bases or hit one of our kids with a hard tag while they were standing on a base in hopes of knocking them off or any number of deceptive and downright dirty plays. The coach would move his best fielder to various positions during the inning so that this player was wherever our kids were most likely to hit. So in one single inning, the kid would play 1st, then go to 2nd, then move over to short, then, for one of our better hitters, he’d move to right field where our guy liked to hit.
Now, I like to sit in the outfield, away from everyone else and observe. So I’m out there behind the outfield fence listening to the roars of our parents yelling at the opposing coach and at the other parents and at each other. It was quite the scene.
Again… these are 5-7 year old kids!
League commissioners were called to observe and mediate. Birth certificates were called into question. It was chaos.
But, going into the last inning, my son’s team had a 4-run lead! However, the other team got last at-bats. All we needed was to keep them from scoring 5 runs.
One of the parents on our team, who happens to be a good friend, has a son who is just learning the game. This is his first season and he is, by quite a bit, the least experienced and least skilled player on the team. Catching, throwing, and hitting just aren’t easy for him – again, because it is his first year. All of our kids were the same way one or two years ago.
Well, this dad goes up to our coaches, in the heat of this emotionally-charged game and tells them, “Look, I’m not blind. I know my son is a liability. Please, hide him somewhere in the outfield so he doesn’t cause the team to lose. I’m his dad. It’s cool. I understand. Just hide him.”
One of the coaches helping out, whose son is BY FAR the best player on our team, looks at the dad and says, “Dude, our kids are here to learn and have fun. If we lose, we lose, but your son has been important to our team all year and we’ll keep treating him that way.”
Our coaches didn’t hide him.
The kid was slated to play 2nd base and that is where he played.
Well, the other team comes up and, after a couple of errors at 2nd, they had pulled to within 1 run of tying the game.
It was just like the movies – they are down one, bases loaded, two outs.
Their next batter hits a ball to where? You guessed it. 2nd base.
The ball goes right by our little friend there on 2nd base.
Two runners score.
Other team wins.
Their coach goes nuts.
He lifts the kid who made the last hit on his shoulders and parades him around the field.
The kid was loving it. It was a fun scene for their team.
Most of our kids took it quite well. There were a couple that cried. A couple who were just there for the treats. And a couple that got distracted by the 2nd place medals and forgot about everything else (my son).
That 2nd baseman was congratulated and hugged. The coach told him how important he was to the team the entire year and that next time, he’ll make the play, no doubt.
On the drive home, my son and I discussed the season and the game. My son loved it. He loved the season. He loved his teammates and his coaches. He learned a lot and grew as a baseball player. I am so proud of him and the fact that he is always willing to do his best.
I am grateful that he is surrounded by people like his coach who understand the bigger picture of youth sports.
I think what the coach said applies to life in general. We will never grow if we lurk in the shadows, shrink away from the limelight, and refuse to face opportunities to fail and succeed. We don’t learn by hiding. We learn and grow by doing. This applies to a 7-year-old baseball player as much as it does to me and as much as it does to you.
Don’t hide. Step out of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with people who are there to support you when you are doing wild, and crazy, and scary things.