Each of the past two Mondays, I’ve posed the question, “why do we play or coach?” Two weeks ago, I wrote about my eye-opening experience at the College Insider Tournament championship game. That’s when it hit me: If I can’t win it all, why am I even doing this? If someone can’t compete for a championship at the highest level, why even play? So, these Monday posts are really just chronicling my journey toward a place of deeper spiritual maturity in the area of motivation and reasoning for getting on the field.
This week: We play because it’s fun.
Or at least it should be. After all, it’s a game. To me, there’s nothing like baseball. It is an individual game wrapped up in a team sport. Everyone gets a chance to bat. Everyone has a chance to make a play in the field. No one can keep the ball from you intentionally. It’s the ultimate in equal opportunity for everyone who plays it.
I still have memories of plays made, hits gotten, and pitches thrown from the earliest days of my time as a baseball player. It was a blast to be on the field with my dad and my friends. Beyond that, some of my fondest memories are of a childhood filled with games of “pickle” and times spent even alone, simply tossing a ball off the wall of my parents’ house and fielding it as it rebounded to me.
Unfortunately, for so many kids, something changes along the way. Fun no longer dominates their experience. Instead, pressure mounts and they become more like adults going to a job they know is required, but one they also despise and fear. We’ve all seen it. We know what it looks like. And we claim that none of the kids we coach are like that. Surely, we aren’t responsible!
Coaches are not immune, either. At the beginning, it’s a calling, a way to make a difference in the lives of young people. And, then, you become cynical, driven, overbearing. The joy and fun of the game are a distant memory, something only “non-serious” baseball people want.
When did it stop being fun? The moment you began to judge yourself by whether you won or lost.
That’s it. That’s the moment fun could no longer be considered. That’s the moment where you started saying, “Winning is fun. Win, and you’ll have fun.” That’s the moment the kids realized that the scoreboard and the box score are the only things that really matter to parents and coaches.
I’ll level with you. I’m coming to believe that the scoreboard should be dismantled and never reconstructed when kids are under 12 years old. Honestly, it’s simply because the parents and coaches can’t handle it, and the kids are the ones who pay for their immaturity. What’s more, I believe that a high school coach should never be evaluated on wins and losses, but only on character, how he treats his players, how he represents the school, and whether or not his players track toward responsibility, accountability, and maturity on and off the field.
Are you having fun? Really. Or, do you find yourself driven and incredibly intense all the time?
Are the players who live in your house and play on your team having fun? Or, do they know that fun only comes when they are “successful” and win?
This week, what if you played and coached simply because baseball is a really fun game? I know, everything in you right now is screaming at me (and some stopped reading long ago). But, what if you tried it again? What if you spent some time with your Heavenly Father, the one who gave us the minds to invent things like baseball? What if you asked him to help you see how it can be fun again? What would change in the way you play or coach?
As always, I’m praying for you this week. If we’re going to play and coach because it’s fun, we’re going to need the help of our Risen Savior.