Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Diamond Dust

Next weekend when our youngest steps into the Batter’s Box for the last time it will mark the end of our families eighteen year association with Fastpitch Softball. Our oldest began playing when she was nine and her younger sister followed in her footsteps at the tender age of four and a half. She wore pink knee socks for her first game and fittingly, at age twenty-one will wear pink knee socks in her last game. Over the years the girls have played on many teams, some good ones and some not so good. We traveled the country to see them play on Competitive Travel teams, High School and College teams. As this chapter of our family life draws to a close I can’t help but think about what, if anything, the girls learned from so many hours spent on the softball diamond. In the following team and teammates may be read as co-workers, friends, or family, whatever suits you.

Hopefully they learned a few life lessons (in no particular order) such as:

v You don’t have to like everyone on your team, but you do have to learn to get along with them. Not everyone in life is going to be your friend, however, you can’t always quit, expect them to change, or fire them, and therefore you need to learn to work with them for the good of the team.

v Sometimes you have to take extraordinary measures to reach your goal. It may be necessary for you to dive for a catch or slide into a base. This is your decision, based on how badly you want to achieve your goal for yourself or your team.

v Sometimes you may be the sacrifice so someone else can get a step closer to their goal. This is where you must learn to put your personal goals aside in order to let someone else have their moment in the sun. Yeah, swinging for the center field fence is more fun and more glamorous, but a bunt that dies a foot in front of the plate may be what is best for everyone concerned. Putting your own glory aside may be the right thing to do.

v Every pitch is another opportunity. Not everything that comes your way is going to be worth the effort of swinging the bat. You will have to make the decision. Is it too far out for you? Is it beneath you? Is it too high for you to reach or close enough you have to cut your losses and run or get hit? Maybe it’s just right for you, waist high and over the middle of the plate. Do you swing at it with everything you’ve got or stand there and watch it pass you by?

v Sometimes your best isn’t good enough. If you gave it your all and still the score wasn’t in your favor, then you have nothing to be ashamed of. If you didn’t give it your all, then you have no one to blame for the outcome but yourself.

v A graceful loser is a winner. Hold your head up and congratulate the winner. They played a better game than you did, that’s all.

v Sometimes the winner isn’t the team with the highest score. How you react to winning is more important than actually winning. If your opponents played to the best of their ability then respecting their efforts will cost you nothing and in no way diminishes your accomplishment.

v One word of praise will do more for your team mate than a ball bucket full of criticism. I need not elaborate on this.

v You can’t do everything yourself. This is why there are nine players on the field at one time. You need to learn to rely on them and work with them to achieve your common goal.

v Sometimes you may not be the best person for the job. You may have to sit on the bench while someone else takes center stage. Being a big enough person to accept that and cheer on the other person is a difficult thing to do.

v There’s no place like home (plate). It’s good to know that when your foot touches home there will be people there to welcome you. Your teammates want you to come home as often as you can.

v The decision won’t always be the one you wanted. As in life, often someone else is deciding things for you. You may not like the call, and you may need to go through the proper channels to appeal the decision, but in the end, whatever the outcome, sometimes you just have to accept the call and move on.

v The final outcome never comes down to just one play. Over the course of seven innings lots of things happen to affect the final outcome of the game. Everyone remembers the last thing that happened, but the end result is an accumulation of all the previous plays, good and bad.

v When you catch the ball, squeeze your glove shut and hold on tight. When an opportunity comes your way and you are lucky enough to catch it, hang on tight so it doesn’t slip away.

v No matter where you are on the field, when the batter hits the ball you have a job to do. Don’t let your team down. Know where the play is, and anticipate the future so you will be ready to react when the time comes. You can’t always predict what will happen, but if you are paying attention to the signs and signals you can anticipate and react faster and more efficiently.

v Keep your eye on the ball. If you don’t know where the ball is, you aren’t playing the game and you’re likely to be hit upside the head. Being blindsided is never a good thing.

v Bruises are battle scars. If you’re playing to win you might get hurt. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

v Know your opponent. Do your research, especially if you’re the pitcher. Know the batters strengths and weaknesses.

v Learn as many pitches as you can. The more things you can do, the better your chances of winning. Be versatile, adapt to the situation. If one pitch isn’t working, try a different one until you find the one that will achieve the desired outcome and never, ever, throw one over the center of the plate.

v When you hit the ball, turn your eyes toward your goal and run like there’s a bear chasing you. Good advice in any endeavor. Don’t look back, just run until you are forced to stop.

v Once you make the decision to throw the ball or swing the bat, put your whole body behind the effort. If it’s worth doing, then don’t do it halfway.

v Sometimes you have to stand and watch the ball go over the fence. Every so often something happens and there is nothing you can do to change the outcome. It’s cliché, but change the things you can and accept the things you can’t change.

v Sometimes you hit a foul ball. Not everything we try turns out the way we want it to. Forget it and try again.

v Sometimes you strike out. There will be another ‘at bat’, if not today, then soon. Do what you can to be ready for it.

v A walk is as good as a hit. If you can make it to your goal by your powers of astute observation rather than by taking aggressive action, then good for you! The run across home plate that started with a walk counts the same as the one that started with a hit.

v Sometimes you drop the ball. Hopefully your teammates will be there to back you up. That’s what they’re for.

v Listen to your coach. Coaches come in all kinds of packages and in every stage of our lives. They are there to guide and support us along the way. If we have chosen them well then their advice and counsel will be invaluable to our success.

In the end, when your foot lands on home plate that final time and the diamond dust has settled, if you can say, “I played the game to the best of my ability and I have no regrets,” then your teammates will be at the dugout door to welcome you home with open arms.

Thanks girls for eighteen years of fun.

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