“Girls, your glove has to MEET the dirt! Knees bent, back straight, glove extended. On your toes!” Ya. I kept telling those 7th, 8th, and 9th grade infielders who kept missing the softball. They were hard hits that were hard to catch, but not impossible and certainly doable for these kids.
I know they could sense my frustration. I don’t mind mistakes from them, but my rule of thumb with them is that they need to think through it, learn from it, and not make the same mistake twice. They usually don’t, this Varsity softball team picks things up quickly. But not today. They were hot, sweaty, and dirty. I needed to do something. This game mattered a lot and we were quickly losing our marginal lead as they were losing their tenacity for the game.
Maybe seeing someone frustrated with you could be motivating, but it’s not for me and it’s not for the girl’s on my team. It’s just shaming. So I pulled back. I prayed. I asked God to change my attitude from wanting to win, to wanting to instill a strong character in these young women, as far as it depended on me. I asked for words to say to them. Just something that would shift the attitude that was killing our team. Coaching isn’t so much about building skills, as it is about building character. The skills will follow.
I called a time-out, pulled all the kids in and pulled up the leg of my pants and exposed my leg, a part of my body I had been purposely keeping covered in pants. Several of them starting bursting out loud, “Miss Syndal, that’s baaaad.” I told them how, in life, we can’t do everything well, all the time. We have to choose what’s important in any given situation. It’s not always easy. Sometimes, we just have to let go of the things we can’t control and focus on what we can. I couldn’t shave my legs for 2 months because I was too ill to bend in the shower safely and it took a lot of energy to do that. It was more important to me to cook food, or fold my laundry, or read a book with the energy I did have. I couldn’t do it all, all the time. My situation in life had changed drastically and I had to begin this process of learning that I can’t do and be all that I could before. It was hard. It is hard.
With smiles on, our 6 person infield headed back onto the field. My frustration was changed. In that moment with the girls I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and all He’s bringing me through. I knew where I had been and that I wasn’t there anymore and it was something I desperately wanted them to know, that life gets hard. Pressures come from all sorts of places. We make mistakes. We hurt people. We let people down. People get upset with us. And all we can do is let the glove meet the dirt and do the best we can with what we’ve got in the very next thing.
And yea, we won the game!