I volunteered to coach one of my son’s baseball teams this season. This was after they had extra kids show up for tryouts and realized they needed more coaches and more teams. That meant I came late to the party and drafted kids I hadn’t even seen try out. Most of our kids didn’t know each other before joining the team and I’ve had to learn their personalities as well as what they are good at when it comes to baseball.
In addition, we play most of our games against club teams who have been together previously and usually have lots of resources committed to their team and their players. When we’re practicing on the weekends they are often playing in tournaments. And this has meant that in most of our games—despite how admirably our kids show up—we get pounded on.
This has surprisingly been one of the best things for my personal growth.
I’m naturally a super competitive person and losing has never been something I do gracefully. I’ve had to mentally prep myself before each of our games that my goal is for these boys to have fun playing baseball and to have opportunities to grow as a player and as a person. For the most part, I think I’ve done this well. I can feel something healthy shift inside me when I celebrate our guys after showing up and playing well… despite the score. So I’m choosing to embrace this experience and focus on having fun too.
Recently we had a Saturday where we had two games in one morning. This is extra difficult as it means I’d have to get creative with our pitchers since there are strict pitch limits and rest days required. But the first of the games was the only time in the season we played a team that wasn’t a club team. I allowed myself the hope that we could actually pull off a win. And we did!
After the game, the teams lined up to high-five each other and say “good game.” When I got to the end of the line and met the other coach, I was caught off guard by what he said to me. Rather than congratulating us on our win, he condescendingly said: “I’m glad we could give you your first win.”
I stood there, frozen in time. Does he think he gave us a win? That this was an intentional act of generosity?
I knew otherwise and wanted to get into it with the coach. But I recognized this as another opportunity for my growth. I smiled, shook his hand, and walked back to our dugout without saying anything. Opportunity for growth.
Fast forward to game number two of our morning. This was again against a club team and even though we lost, we held our own for most of the game. Feeling good after getting at least one win under our belts, I had an extroverted moment of banter with their head coach when he was standing as the third base coach while his team was batting. He kept telling them to move up in the batter’s box, and they kept ignoring him.
I jokingly said to him that it looked like they really loved the back of the box. This doesn’t sound like much, but as an introvert, this was me trying to have some camaraderie with the opposition. And almost like a replay of earlier that day, I was again caught off guard by his response.
“Our players aren’t used to pitches this slow.”
Rather than connect as fellow coaches (or even fellow humans) at that moment, he decided to passive-aggressively belittle our pitchers (who also could hear him). Again, I thought of all the things I wanted to say to him. And again I realized a moment for growth. So I said nothing and decided I would no longer attempt small talk with their coaching staff. I hyped up our guys for playing a great game against a tough opponent.
In all of this, I’m realizing God continues to provide me with opportunities that bother me, make me uncomfortable, and force me to decide what kind of person I want to be moving forward. And believe me, the options are there. But these days I’m trying hard to pick the version of me I most want to be and taking advantage of every moment that helps me become more of that.
I’m realizing we all have these regular moments of decision. We can keep being the person we’ve been, or we can lean into the opportunity and decide to become an even better version of ourselves.
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