Most of you know that while I’m not at Achieve, my time is consumed with softball. I have been involved with softball in some aspect since the time I was 10 years old…that’s 20 years with this sport. There are many reasons why I love it – the sound of metal cleats on pavement, a good pop in the catcher’s mitt when the pitcher brings the heat, the look of a freshly lined field, the thrill of the walk-off win, teammates gathering at home to welcome in the homerun hitter…my list could go on and on and on. And even as I’m writing this, softball is putting me through another challenge, and perhaps, that is what I love most about it – the life lessons and challenges that each and every person involved learns.
As a player, you learn work ethic, sportsmanship & respect, leadership & responsibility, communication, team work & sacrifice humility & resiliency – to name a few. This game teaches those playing to have a good work ethic, and that really, the game rewards those that work hard and don’t give up. Those that keep swinging, keep fighting, keep working hard will get rewarded. That it is important to keep working towards what you want because you will get rewarded. Life will give you set backs, it’s up to you whether or not you give in to them or keep fighting – softball teaches players to keep fighting.
Through softball, a player also learns that they must respect, first and foremost, the game of softball, because it is bigger than the player as an individual. They learn to respect their coaches, their teammates, umpires, opponents, grounds crew, tournament directors, vendors, etc., because every one of those individuals is there for the same reason – softball. Through respect, a player learns sportsmanship. They learn ethical and polite behavior towards the game and everyone involved – hence the “handshake” line at the end of every game. Players (at least I can speak for the one’s I coach and have coached) learn to play the game the right way – to not cheat or look for ways to undercut the other team; they learn to congratulate opponents when they’ve done well or made a great play. It is important in life to respect everyone you meet and treat them ethically and politely – and again, softball teaches players to do this.
Players also learn leadership and responsibility. They learn that not only teammates and opponents look to them, but also younger generations of softball players; that their actions are bigger than them and that they need to lead by example. Players realize that they are responsible for their actions and the way that they carry themselves on the field – that they cannot dwell on what happened last at bat or the last play, that they must learn from it and keep moving forward. They learn that their response to what happens is also their responsibility; they are not able to behave in any manner they want (such as throwing equipment or yelling at teammates when things aren’t going right), but must control their responses. They also learn to become responsible young adults by managing their own gear, their schedule, and their communication with coaches, teammates, managers, etc. Players learn to communicate appropriately regarding their intentions, questions, and difficult situations. These are all important aspects that are valued in individuals both in the workplace and in life.
Players also learn how to work with others – another important quality to have in life. They learn that each person is different and you have to work with them in different ways in order to reach the same goals. Softball also teaches sacrifice. Sometimes, a player will have to do what is best for the team, but it is not always what is best for them. They learn in order to reach a goal one might have to give themselves up for the betterment of the team. In almost every working environment, people have to work others and may need to make sacrifices for others. Once again, softball encourages these qualities.
Softball also teaches players to have humility and resiliency. It is a sport where you are considered a good hitter if you fail (yes, FAIL) 7 out of 10 times. Think about that for a second… SEVEN out of TEN times someone FAILS and is still considered to be good. Imagine the last time you failed that much and what the result was. Players have to be resilient from at bat to at bat realizing the last one doesn’t matter anymore and that this one does. Errors are also a part of the sport – but guess what, there will be another ball hit right at you and you’ll get to bounce back from that last mistake. The game will also keep you humble…just when you think you’ve got it going, some pitcher will blow it past you, or a player will snag that beautiful line drive that you just hit. You can’t get caught up in what you’ve done in the past because the game will put you back in your place. No one is bigger than the game. Life is all about resiliency, bouncing back from adversities and set backs to keep chugging along.
Softball is many things to many different people. For me, it is a way for me to help teach life qualities to our next generation. Softball has taught me so much and I am so thankful that I’m able to pass it along to the next group of players.