It was the summer before my freshman year of high school. I’d finally reached a triple digit weight, but my hair and feet made up most of it. I was awkward and introverted. But, I loved softball. Summer softball leagues were something I looked forward to every year.
This particular summer softball would change my life. I was playing on a co-ed team and was one of the team’s few pitchers. When I wasn’t pitching I was in right field…or on the bench. Needless to say, pitching is what made me love the sport. There’s no standing around. There’s constant action. It’s the perfect position for someone who can’t sit still (a problem I still have).
Our softball team traveled to other rural Montana communities to play once or twice a week. One afternoon at an away game, I was standing on the pitchers mound. And I was off. Bad off. I couldn’t manage to get the ball across the plate. I asked the coach to take me out, but he insisted I push through it. Throw after throw after throw I walked members of the opposing team. When my own teammates started sitting down on their bases and laying down in the outfield I began to plead with my coach to please take me out.
At one point the coach walked out to the mound where I was in tears…in front of two entire communities, no less. He told me something that I have never forgotten. He said that he wasn’t going to let this get the best of me. We all have bad days and we have to push through them. And, at that point there was no chance of our team coming back for a win, so the best thing he could do for me was force me to work through it. And I did.
I don’t know if it was the humiliation or the anger….LOTS of anger….that got me through the longest softball game of my life, but eventually I got a ball across the plate. Then another. And another. I’ll never forget the smile on my coach’s face and seeing him cheering for me when I finally broke through that wall.
When the game was over I ran to the bus and cried. I didn’t talk to any of my teammates during the ride home. Instead, I stared out my window and seethed. To say I was furious with Coach would be an epic understatement. But, as time passed I learned to appreciate what he did for me. 20-something years later that day still chokes me up when I think about it. Little did I know that one of the most humiliating day of my life would teach me such a huge lesson.
At least once a day you’ll probably hear me say something to my kids about never leaving on a miss. If we’re shooting free throws in the gym…we never leave the court on a miss. If we’re practicing volleyball serves…we never leave on a miss. If I’m learning to bake something new and the recipe is a major failure….I never quit on a miss. I make it again and again until I master it. It’s not about trying to be the best at something, it’s about never letting that something get the best of you.
To Coach: Thank you for not letting me quit.