Recently the youth baseball season came to a close, and I have been reflecting on the many lessons one experiences coaching young kids. There are numerous instances where your leadership, patience and decision making ability are tested.
One memory that stands out the most was a game situation with a struggling pitcher.
We were in the final inning of the game, leading by one run, and we needed to shut down the other team to hold on and win. It would have been a nice victory and the boys had played well.
However, our pitcher was also a kid who had been struggling with his confidence. He was tough on himself and it reflected in his demeanor. He had not handled any type of failure well all year, and this situation was no different.
After several walks, we found ourselves with bases loaded, one out, and the winning run on second. Our pitcher was nervous, and his reactions to what was happening only suggested things may not go well.
At this moment, I had a decision to make. I could leave him in the game and see what happens, or go for the win and make the pitching change. The latter decision seemed much easier – it was perhaps the higher percentage play.
However, there was a problem going with the percentages. How would this pitcher ever overcome fear and learn to win if I “saved” him from potential failure?
With very little time to react, I decided to leave him in the game. Win or no win, this was a defining moment for this pitcher. An opportunity to overcome fear. A chance to face pressure and react. A time to build confidence. A moment for his team to stand behind him and support him regardless of the outcome.
So was it a success story?
The next batter struck out. We were one step closer with two outs and bases loaded.
That’s when it all ended. A hit through the infield on the next pitch scored two and it was game over. We lost.
Was it the right call? If we were only thinking about winning, perhaps a change would have given us a better chance. There are no guarantees. Despite what the scoreboard said in the end, I think it was still a winning decision.
In life we will many times face similar situations. We need the confidence to stand strong and do our best, without someone coming to the rescue. We need to look fear straight in the eye and persevere, regardless of the result. This was just a youth baseball game after all.
We all like to win, but I believe the lessons the pitcher and his team learned that day will serve them well and multiply their chances of much bigger success in the long run.