I stood on the mound in a Little League All-Star Scrimmage game. To me, it might as well have been Game 7 of the MLB World Series. This was before travel ball. We were playing the crosstown rival team. I hated them. They beat us every year to move on to nationals. But this year, it was our turn.
Warming up in the bullpen, I could put the ball wherever I wanted with good velocity and movement. Today would be my day. I took the mound and quickly struck out the first two batters. However, the man calling balls and strikes took notice and began squeezing the strike zone. He was the father of an opposing player. The rivalry was real and apparently seeped into adults as well. I tightened up, but eventually I had walked the bases loaded.
I peered in to get the sign and fired in a fastball that cut the plate in half with no doubt of it being called a strike. “Ball Four!” and I walked in the second run of the inning.
“Time!” I hear my father call. He was our coach. We went undefeated in our city play, and he was well respected by the team. I began to walk off of the mound with my head down holding up the ball to hand it to him. I was desperately trying to hold back the tears streaming down my face.
My father picked me up by the shirt and carried me back to the mound. He was upset with me. At first I was confused. Shouldn’t he be mad at the umpire? File a protest? Feel sorry for me? Rather, he said the following:
“Do you want me put in someone else? Is that what you want? Everyone in the ballpark knows what is going on right now, but you have no control over that and neither do I. You are the best pitcher on this team, and if I put in someone else, he will have to deal with it, and it will just be harder for him. Do you want to go in the dugout and cry? Or do you want to pitch?” I said, “I want to pitch.” He said, “Good. Then dry up your tears and figure out a way to get people out.”
By choosing to face the adversity, I created an opportunity to learn. I learned that I could control two things. How I react, and what I do next. My response would either have value or no value. Crying in the dugout was justifiable, but worthless. It provided no value. A victimhood mentality produces more victimhood.
Rather than focus on yourself and the adversity, look to the teammate on your left, on your right, and on the mission. Lead through it. Left. Right. Mission.
We didn’t win that day, but I learned to be tough and lead through hard times. You may have got me today. But you made us better. And we would be back...that’s how
winning is done and it pays to be a winner!