My teacher amazes me. At 9 years old he still teaches me lessons on a regular basis. I have come to realize that I just need to stop trying to figure out when these lessons will appear. Just when I'm positive one will present itself, it does not. On the flip side, when I feel there is no reason for a lesson to occur, one appears out of thin air. All I can say is the first rule of thumb when it comes to these lessons, well there are no rules.
Recently the travel baseball team that my teacher is a part of went to the 9U state baseball tournament, which is basically for teams with players at the age of nine. The tournament was held in Cullman, Alabama and consisted of 21 teams from all over the southern region with teams ranging from Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and of course Alabama. The tournament was a four day event. Yes, you heard it right, four days. You know what that meant don't you? Well, let's just say that we did not eat well during that time. A ton of park ball food was consumed. To some that sounds "yummy"; however, it did wonders on our stomachs, but that is a whole story within itself whereas I?m certain you don't want details.
Our team played their hearts out and a lot of dirt, sweat and exhaustion set in. During our final game, we were leading the game at the bottom of the last inning. The other team was up to bat and all our boys had to do was to get 3 outs and the game would have been over. At that time the score was 7 to 4 in our favor. As fate would have it, the unthinkable happened. We lost 8 to 7 and did not advance into the semi-final round. We were done, kaput, fineeto, no-moss, well you get the picture.
One of the players made several key mistakes. After the game ended he blamed himself for the errors and was extremely hard on himself. Feeling like he alone let his teammates down; he apologized to his teammates and began to shed some major tears as they walked off the field with their heads hung very very low. They all knew the championship was now a distant and faded dream.
Once the head coach finished speaking to the boys via his post-game talk, we were free to head home. We gathered our coolers and chairs and we began our journey toward the parking lot. Just then, my teacher and I noticed "the player" who felt that he lost the game for us and he was clearly still very upset.
My teacher and I observed that this player began to walk by himself to the parking lot about 10 steps ahead of his mom with his head still hug very low and with tears still rolling down his face. My teacher expressed to me that he was going to catch up to his friend and teammate in order to console him. He then jogged up to him. They walked all the way to the parking lot together and I could see my teacher doing his best to cheer him up. I'm not sure what he was saying to his friend and teammate, but I all saw were his arms flailing about as I'm certain my teacher was doing his best in order to get his friends mind off the game or something along those lines. We got to the portion of the parking lot where we had to go in different directions based on where we parked. The players mom caught up to him and they began to walk in the direction of their car.
"Dude." My teacher yelled to his friend.
His friend gave him the "whats up" head nod.
"Like I said, keep your chin up." He voiced.
His teammate and friend shook his head slowly acknowledging that he had heard my teacher.
"YOU are an awesome ball player!" He conveyed.
Again his teammate and friend shook his head in disbelief of the events that had just taken place twenty minutes earlier, turned and walked off.
I put my arm around my teacher as we walked in the direction of our car. He too was upset by the events that had taken place as the state championship was no longer in our grasp. We walked in without exchanging words for several minutes. Then, I broke the silence.
"I AM proud of you for several things that you displayed here you know." I started.
"What do you mean?" He asked. "We lost."
"Well, first of all, even though you lost and are out of the tournament, you played great in all of the games." I explained.
"Gee, thanks dad." He gloomed.
"No, seriously your team is a very good group of ball players." I reminded him.
"I know but you know what the worst part is?... that we didn't lose to that team, we lost to ourselves." He concluded.
?I don?t disagree with that.? I said. ?There were mistakes that shouldn?t have happened, but don't forget what you learned in camp about the game of baseball." My teacher glanced at me with a puzzled look on his face. "Baseball is a game of", I began.
"Failures!" He stated as he finished my sentence. A very successful college coach where my teacher took several baseball camps throughout the last couple of years taught the boys in camp that statement. I happened to be there watching my son at camp on the day the coach explained what that meant. The way this college coach explained the statement, "baseball is a game of failures" is like this. Players at all levels from professional to little league get out or strike out more times then get on base. There are dropped balls, missed catches, bad throws and games lost. The reason behind this coach saying that statement at little league baseball camp was to let the young players know things don't always go the way you hope. It is important to leave that last failure somewhere else and not to bring it back into the game. That last play is over and should not affect the next set of plays or losing one game should not affect another game.
I knew my teacher and I were walking to my truck in the parking lot of the baseball complex, but I had no idea that I was about to learn a lesson. However, in true form, the lesson appeared.
I was once again taken aback at what my teacher taught me. What he said was the last thing I expected to hear come out of his mouth.
"Dad, like I said to my friend, he was not the reason we lost. He thought he was, but he wasn't. We have all worked hard. We are a team and that means we win together and we lose together. Not one person won the game and not one person lost the game. In this tournament, we lost... together as a team." He belted out.
I seriously had to stop in my tracks. Like I said, I did not expect to hear that come out of his mouth. Right then and there my teacher was my championship player even though we did not go to the championship game. I was so proud of him as his light shinned brighter than ever at that moment.
In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: When you are on a team, each member of that team is of equal importance to each other because one person does not make up a team.