Do you remember a time growing up when you made a mistake from which you weren’t sure your pride would be able to fully recover? A mistake that not only embarrassed yourself, but those who counted you?
I remember one. It happened on the softball field when I was in college. In my adulthood looking back, I can appreciate how insignificant it was in the grand scheme of life. But it hurt nonetheless at the time.
I remember it was the final inning and third base was occupied by a player from our in-state rival. I remember a power hitter was up to bat with two outs. That same power hitter did something unexpected…she got under a pitch and popped it up to shallow right center.
I remember we were one out away from sealing a big victory. As I sprinted backwards from my position at second base looking up at the sky to track down the ball, I remember hearing my friend and teammate, the right-fielder, yell for the catch as she raced in towards the lip of the grass. At least I thought she called for the ball.
Although realizing I had just as good of a chance to snag that pop fly as she did, I immediately veered off course to avoid a collision. And that’s when it happened. The ball dropped between us.
I saw the look of exasperation on her face. I saw the disappointment in my pitcher’s eyes. I saw the opposite team erupt in celebration.
And I was angry.
Angry at myself for not taking control as an upperclassman. Angry for not finishing a play that we had dedicated countless hours of practice to perfect. Angry that we did everything better than our opponents that game except for one stupid play.
I think back to that moment and often wonder how much worse I would have felt had that mistake been recorded and replayed over and over again for everyone to see. Luckily for me, I competed in a world that was far less technologically connected than the one my kids are expected to navigate.
Sports fans remember certain defining, cringe-worthy moments.
Bill Buckner 1986 World Series Game 6 “Between the Legs”
Chris Webber’s 1993 NCAA Championship “Infamous Timeout”
Fred Brown’s “Inexplicable Pass” to James Worthy in 1982 NCAA Championship
It is probable if you have kids who compete in sports that your son or daughter will be put in the position to single-handedly win or lose their games. And despite the fact that games are won or lost by a series of plays by both teams, fans seem to remember the final plays over everything else.
I challenge adults to think about times when they felt as if they were falling short in some aspect of their life: Struggling to keep their spouse happy; spearheading a work project that resulted in higher costs and fewer profits; failing to deliver upon a promise to their child; gaining too much weight; not taking enough time to rest; the list goes on and on.
It is true what they say: With age comes wisdom. We have the luxury of knowing that storm clouds will eventually pass. Many budding athletes aren’t old enough to have that same level of understanding. Children run the risk of only seeing darkness on auto loop. Errors are broadcast for all to see and mock.
Resist the temptation to only shower love on your child when they succeed and are being glorified.
Resist the temptation to stand across from their opposition in joyous celebration as young heads hang low.
Resist the temptation to immerse yourself too deeply into your child’s life, for it is theirs to live.
Resist the temptation to judge yourself or other parents based on the amount of trophies our kids accumulate.
I am 100% confident that my own children will learn a great deal from their setbacks as I have with mine. Memories will always trump medals in my opinion.
Don’t waste your breath (or dignity) screaming at anyone at your kid’s next competition. This is their book to write. Flip the pages and follow along. Enjoy the story.
Written by Heidi Woodard