It is the bottom of the sixth inning. The team I am coaching has rallied from a seven-run deficit and tied the game. There are two outs, and a runner on second base. My son is at the plate.
Before we get to the story, I would like to tell you about the struggles and mindset of this 10-year-old boy from the previous year. In our community, we have AAA, AA and A levels for traveling baseball. My son made the U10 AA team the previous year. He was ecstatic about making that team, and in all honesty, so was I. The team was made up of kids who played travelling baseball since they were 8. It was my son’s first year of travel baseball (proud parent moment: I must have a prodigy, and I should start calling scouts! Haha.).
Well, after the first few practices and games, I knew the scouts were not needed. He struggled. And when I say struggled, I am putting it lightly. He maybe had 10 hits the entire year, and of those 10, one was to the outfield. He is a good fielder and a GREAT team kid. But, his struggles at the plate were things of legend, and it was wearing on him, and me.
Confidence is one of the most noticeable emotions, if you can call it an emotion, in sports. When you have it, you can conquer the world. Without it, you are afraid to do just about anything. He suffered from the latter, and that made me sad as a parent and coach.
Fast forward to the 2018 tryouts. He does his thing and is excited about how he performed. I am of the opinion that the evaluators know what they are doing—I am in the minority on this I know. He makes the 11A team. His disappointment is obvious. All of his “buddies” are on the AA team, and he is the only one who moved “down” a level. Again, time to parent like no one has ever parented before. I give him the “life” and the “go and show them they made a mistake” speech. I’ll let you know in 10 years if that worked.
Back to the game at hand. Runner on second, game tied, two outs, bottom of the sixth and my boy is at the plate.
First pitch: Ball outside.
Second pitch: Swinging strike.
Third pitch: I know what he going to do. No matter what, if he has one on him, he’s swinging—good or bad pitch,
He doesn’t swing! This dad is very, very happy. This means something right? Ball two.
Fourth pitch: At this point, my stomach is in a giant knot. Not because I want to win the game, or see my boy be the hero of the day, but because I don’t want him to be disappointed and have another challenging year playing the game he loves.
The pitch comes in, and he DRILLS IT over the third baseman’s head for a game-winning double!
The pure joy on his face, and his teammates faces, as he is getting mobbed is why I love this game, as well as watching kids grow and gain confidence in sports and life. I swear he could have run home from Lakeville to St. Michael that day.
What I learned as a parent
It is hard to see my kid fail and be upset. But failure is necessary for growth. I have to fight all parental instincts to be a “bulldozer” parent. You know the kind that tries to plow all of early life’s difficulties, so their child can be “happy,” win every game and make every team they want.
How I try to apply what I learned to parenting, coaching, business and life
Though failure hurts, we will bounce back stronger if we learn from the experience. The feeling that we get, knowing that we once failed at a task but can get through it builds confidence. It is not about getting knocked down, it is about how quick we get up that defines us. I want my kids to develop grit, because grit is needed no matter what we do. And, the only way they can develop grit, is to fail and bounce back.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” -Thomas Edison