This past weekend at the softball field, after some (cough cough) gentle reminders that the girls would have to EARN THEIR SPOTS, we actually got to see it happen.
After weeks of messing around with positions and line-ups, trying to figure out the ones that work best for the team – and listening to plenty of parent complaints in the meantime, the time had come to do that thing that nobody wants us to do. We sat the girls down, told them this was our last week of dilly-dallying, and that each child was personally responsible for earning their own spots on the field and in the line-up.
The bomb had dropped.
And surveying the crowd of little leaguers, it was apparent that the kids didn’t really know what to expect. Some of them had always played a certain position, whether they earned it or not. Some had parents that wanted them to play a certain position. (Although if we listened to them, we would have 10 infielders and no outfielders). Some of the girls fancied themselves a third baseman or a catcher, but never really gave much thought to the fact that perhaps, someone on their own team – from their own family, might actually be better than they were.
Would they have to suddenly work hard? What if they couldn’t earn their spot? What if they didn’t get what they wanted?
With three pool games to figure it all out, the challenge tasked to the players, it was time to sit back and see who would show up and play ball, and who would realize that all those hours spent at practice spitting seeds while the coaches coached and bellowed warnings and tips, were actually important and meaningful practices.
Each girl was given equal opportunity to play where they wanted or always had. Each girl was in the batting order. Each girl was rotated with enough chances for us to see how well (or unwell) they were going to play. Three games, and 15 innings later when bracket play came, it was time for coaches decisions to be made.
The real QUESTION WAS – How could the team be poised to win best together?
You see, it isn’t fair to keep a girl on first base when she can’t catch water even if she fell out of a boat just to appease the child or parent. It’s not fair to start a third baseman who is terrified to play up, or even with the bag. It’s unjust to the team, to the family…to have a kid bat leadoff when she hasn’t gotten on base during a game in over a month. It’s not cool to avoid putting a child in the outfield even though she is the fastest, best glove on the team and saves games, just because her parents will whine.
With bracket play line up posted, it was obvious that some of the kids were not pleased with their positions. (Others were giddy). There were some hung heads, and a few who quickly tattled to their moms and dads on the sidelines. Others were shocked to see their name next to a position that they had wanted for a long time. But the reality was, it would TAKE ALL 10 of them, working together, working hard, to get the job done.
And guess what?
We lost. In fact, we were shut out completely, putting up a big old goose egg on the scoreboard. And we could tell that some of the kids were a little confused. Shouldn’t they have won, with the best lineup on the field? What was all this talk about earning spots, if we just lost the game? Some of the parents who felt betrayed by their daughter being displaced felt smug, almost as if we got what we deserved.
But what really happened is we were beaten by an arm in the circle, who was throwing the perfect combination of heat and movement leaving us scoreless. (hat tip to her)
Our defense was tight. We held a team that was much better than us, three innings before they were able to score on some walks and passed balls, and then they never scored again. And despite losing, it was a beautiful thing to watch the kids out there hustling and working hard to not only earn, but keep their spots on the field. They made plays they hadn’t made all day. There was consistency in the defense. The kids were learning to work together. While not flawless, the defense was the tightest it had been since fall ball started.
Perhaps the best part about the entire weekend, was watching one girl on our team EARN HER SPOT when the opportunity was given, and prove to us, and her team – that she was in fact the best person for the job that she wanted. Admittedly, she was overlooked in the past. She didn’t complain, she didn’t whine, she didn’t pout – she simply took the field and proved to everyone that she deserved her spot on the field because SHE PLAYED IT BETTER THAN HER TEAMMATES, even some who had played there longer than her. And she rose to the challenge of actually EARNING HER SPOT through action and performance.
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