The Beauty of One Bad Inning

Lets just face it. We all have sat on the sidelines and watched a team we love, one our daughter plays on -fall miserably apart.

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Here you are at a tournament eating nachos, and happily amused with game day activities,  hoping earnestly to watch a stellar game, only to end up feeling like you have stepped onto the filming set of a Bad News Bears movie. Only unlike the movie, you personally KNOW the coach, and you KNOW the kids on the team.

You start saying things from the sidelines like, “Catch the ball,” or “Wake up Girls,” or “OMG, what is going on,” (none said in your happy voice)because the ego side of your fanaticism feels antsy and challenged when everything seems to fall apart. You feel anger towards the coach, officials, other team – start accusing someone of using an altered bat, or loading a team, or something. Because, my gawd, there has to be SOMEONE, anyone, SOMETHING to blame. Right?

Suddenly, you feel like the team performance is a reflection on you. (It’s not)

During these not so stellar moments, you may sit in your foldaway chair trying to figure out how to get to the bathroom without anyone seeing the team name, in this moment a label of embarrassment, plastered across the front of your shirt. Or you slink back in your seat and stick a blow-pop in your mouth feeling angry, frustrated, exasperated and resentful that you invested so much time, money, time, money into a team that, at least in this moment, can’t hit a ball or catch a pop-fly.

We say this. Calm down!

images There is MUCH beauty in one bad inning, one bad game, or a bad tourney. In fact, during these times of strife, the team actually grows a lot – AND, GAINS both experience and skills necessary for future success.

Winning after all; is the EASY part!

Seriously….

  • How awesome is it to see a team come through the losers bracket for a win.(Even if it’s just one win)
  • How incredibly cool is it to see a group of girls pull together, establish leadership and mentor one another to regain their composure as a team?  Heck, rebounding from an hour long inning without being able to get a single solitary out, or from a game where your team was run-ruled takes a certain kind of strength, maturity, dignity and sportsmanship.
  • How amazing is it to see a team work through the mental blocks and figure out a way to pull it all back together?
  • How fun is it to see a team go from struggling last week to being successful the next?
  • How proud does it make you to see that even though the kids may have not played to their potential, they are still able to stay in love with the game of fast-pitch, and still WANT to play again the next week?
  • How cool is it when you see a team FINALLY, stop making the same mistake over and over again, correcting their errors during game situations and IMPROVING? If they never failed, struggled or had those bad innings or games – you would never notice the growth. In fact, they might not ever grow!
  • How proud does it make you to see these YOUNG GIRLS, keep their heads UP even when things are not going as well as they would have liked? To support one another, to avoid casting blame and instead take responsibility as a team?
  • How awesome is it that these young girls learn so many life skills during these trying moments, and are able to take these opportunities to mature as individuals and a team?
  • How would the team fare in the long term if they never stumbled sometimes, were never emotionally and physically challenged.
  • How necessary humbling is it for teams to be reminded that there is ALWAYS more work to be done?
  • How pray tell, do you assume character is built?
  • How does a team/coach/player know what it needs to work on, if they are never challenged, or their weaknesses are never revealed?
  • How do you know how far you have come, if you don’t have something like the bad innings, the bad games, the bad tourneys to look back upon?

The bounce-back, the improvement, the growth, the hours on the field practicing, the achievements, the moments that build confidence and CHARACTER and reassure the girls – NONE OF THEM HAPPEN WITHOUT the metaphorical one bad inning.

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Its also VERY important to realize that although parents immediately turn to the coaches in the midst of the insanity, thinking they should DO something (anything to fix the mess)…one of the best things he/she can do is stand idly by and ALLOW the team to figure it out AS A TEAM, ON THEIR OWN! If the coach has confidence that he/she taught the girls right during practice, and that they fundamentally KNOW what to do – all a coach can do, should do – is hope they are able regain their footing and find the mental toughness and skills necessary to turn it around.

Parents and coaches need to be able to HAND OVER the responsibility of the game over to the players. It is the only way that they grow as humans, and the only way they can learn.

And more importantly – allowing the team to take responsibility for itself also gives the team the power to make positive changes. Did you hear that? When you allow a team to be accountable, responsible for the areas that need improvement, YOU GIVE THEM POWER TO IMPROVE!

Plus, it’s their job – not anyone else’s. Coaches and parents can be frustrated, but shouldn’t feel angry – especially when you realize that these extremely uncomfortable growing pains will only make the better in the long run. Yes, this is much easier said than done, especially when you are in the midst of one bad inning.

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