When my son was younger, his traveling baseball team was in a tournament. It was all the things summer baseball weekends usually are – bag chairs, heat, sunscreen, dirt, cheering, hits, strike outs, fun and exhaustion (which I wouldn’t trade for the world). Watching a bunch of 10-11 year old boys learning new things about themselves and their game is oddly satisfying.
You see all sorts of emotions during these tournaments- frustration, excitement, sadness, and joy (and that’s just within the first inning)…from the coaches and the players (and often the fans). From the time you hear “play ball” to the time the final “out” is called in the last inning, you know there will be all sorts of excitement. And, for some of us coaching wives, it’s far before (and beyond) that.
If it was game day and I was in what I thought to be a two-way conversation (unrelated to baseball) with my husband, I would get interrupted with a “so, during this first game today….” It’s amazing how the mind of a coach never stops, at least not my coach. And, it would happen even at 7:30am, with the first game not until 2pm….after, I am certain, what he also went to bed thinking about the night before.
During this particular weekend, we ended up winning the entire tournament, with zero losses in the process. Yay!! But the thing that stood out to me most was on the first day. After two of the games, the coach was handed a game ball by the tournament officials and he/she was to choose one player on their team to receive it. This is kind of a big deal – it’s like a “trophy” for the game – but just for the one kid who gets it – not based on the win or loss, but the performance of each individual player. I have to be honest, as a momma and not the coach, it kinda made me panic. I instantly thought two things – one, that’s a lot of pressure on a coach to have to pick one (and how will he do, and what will he base it on…oh, husband, choose wisely – please choose wisely) and two, well, this is something out of the ordinary in today’s “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. It was somewhat of a nerve-racking and refreshing feeling all at once.
As I would watch in my “inner panic” mode, Ty was handed the ball and, with utmost confidence, he chose. Each time, he held that ball up and presented it to the player of his choice and everyone cheered in agreement. It was wonderful. Again, two things came to mind – one, why do I question my coach husband, he really is an amazing guy (and coach), with a heart of complete and utter passion for the kids. Even if he does lose sleep over it all…and does get a temper in the midst of games…and practices…and scrimmage. Secondly, in an instant, I knew why he chose the players he did…and I loved it.
Even in the two minutes he had to think about his choice, it all felt so planned out. And, even though I felt pretty good about my reasoning behind his choices, I decided to still ask him about it later. And, it didn’t disappoint. He didn’t choose either one of them for being the greatest athlete on the team, the most accurate pitcher, greatest hitter, fastest runner, best fielder – he chose them, both of them, because of the emotions and heart they put into the games. Their attitudes and their “inner” representation as athletes during each game. Their own personal “wins” and “overcoming” moments. And they were amazing choices. It made me love my coach even a little bit more…and it made me think…what if we all did life aiming to get the “game ball” – the way these two were chosen.
Not for being the best of the best, not for doing one thing outstanding, not for being some super star – but for doing life with drive and ambition. Having a life-game of holding our tongues and our tempers – resisting outbursts and anger. Playing life as a great teammate and a leader in our own right – with maybe not the most obvious of leadership skills, but definitely effective. Trying something for the first time with integrity and grit, ambition and inspiration. Playing a game with patience and without complaint. Accepting praise humbly, while accepting suggestions with listening ears for things in which could have been done better. A life of cheering others on, without needing to hear all the things we did well in the process.
Let’s all aim to get the “game ball” of life!! That sounds like a great plan. Play ball!