I have studiously avoided writing about my children in this blog. I guess there are two reasons behind that. One, I have been hesitant to draw them into this tangled web of blogdom I started a few years ago. But, more important, I just assume none of you really give a crap what my kids are up to. I know I don’t care that much about yours. Just kidding, you know I can’t wait to get your next family Christmas letter.
But, then, something happens – something profound – that just compels me to rethink this stance. Two such somethings happened recently, each of which was a teaching moment from one of my kids to me. As they each head to their graduation ceremonies this week, one from high school and one from middle school, these stories bear retelling.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of spending time with me over the past 10 years knows that, by some genetic fluke, both of my kids are very good athletes. I may have bragged about their exploits every now and then. I’m not going to do that here (OK, maybe just a little), but I do want to tell two “off-the-field” stories, one about each.
This was Christian’s last season of high school baseball. Personally, he had a great run. He entered high school as a 5’5” 110 lb freshman and played his way onto the varsity baseball team that year. He ended up starting every game that season, leading his team in hitting (.462 batting average), and became only the second freshman in school history to make the all-conference team. He was a 4-year varsity starter and 2-year team captain. Unfortunately, the final season was a tough one for the team. They were very young, lacked depth in talent, and got beat up pretty good by most of the conference. There were dozens of ways and times he could have hung his head and quit this year, but he kept his head up and kept leading the younger guys.
The profound moment came after a resounding loss toward the end of the season. I noticed during that game, as the score got more and more lopsided, many of the players were walking on and off the field. Really, more like dragging on and off the field, heads hung down. Not Christian. I noticed that he ran hard out to his shortstop position and ran hard back off the field every inning, regardless of score or personal performance. After the game, he and I walked to my car together and I complimented him for his relentless hustle, despite the score. Trust me when I tell you he was in a miserable mood, but he said, “Well, you gotta play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
What a great mindset for a kid who’s about to head off to college this fall and the “real world” four years hence. You gotta play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. How often do we adults, when things go against us, continue to play “the game” the way it’s supposed to be played? Probably too few, I would guess.
Christian – I’ve never been more proud of you. Not just because you’re graduating from high school, though I am bursting with pride for that accomplishment. And, not just because you worked your arse off to be a star high school baseball player. I’m most proud of you because you play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, always and without fail. And, THAT will serve you well in life.
Last week was the annual sports picnic and award ceremony at Petra’s school. Petra is a “lifer” at the Green Acres School, meaning she has been there since pre-K, or 10 years. This year was a particularly exciting one athletically for the kids in the tie-dye jerseys (no, I’m not making that up). Green Acres is better known for its policy of having no cuts and letting every kid play than it is for winning. As a competitive guy, I’ve struggled with that as I’ve attended games over the years. But, this season brought a special win as well. The girls varsity basketball team won its first conference title in school history, led by Petra and two other girls (The Big 3). During the award ceremony last week, they showed the videotape (taken by a screaming parent) of the final minute of the final game against the Norwood School. Norwood’s star is the daughter of a former Duke basketball star and NBA player. Green Acres’ star is the daughter of, well, me. Suffice to say, the DNA odds were not good going into the game! Yet, the kids in tie-dye won that game. But, that’s not the story.
After all the kids at the awards ceremony had been given their “participation certificates,” the athletic director gave out the Coaches’Awards for the top male and female athletes in the school. Petra was awarded the Coaches’Award for the girls. When she was called up to receive the award, the basketball championship and the two key three pointers she hit in that game were never mentioned. Instead, he told a story of a big loss. Petra was in 3rd grade and the girls varsity (7th and 8th graders) softball team did not have enough players to field a team for a game that afternoon. The AD saw Petra on the playground during recess and asked her if she would play with the older girls. She did just that, starting the game at shortstop. Just as I thought the story was about the athletic prowess of my little 3rd grader, the story took an unexpected turn, at least for me. Apparently, Green Acres got thumped pretty badly that day, losing by 20 runs or so. The AD was coaching that game and said that as he walked off the field feeling pretty awful about the game, Petra ran up to him and said, “Thanks coach!” and ran off. He said he’d never been thanked after a huge loss like that. He said at first he didn’t even know what he was being thanked for – after all, he had just coached them to a big defeat.
But, of all the athletic accomplishments Petra had for her school in those 10 years, the event the stuck the most for the AD was her remembering to thank him for coaching.
Petra – I’m so very proud of your accomplishments, academic and athletic, at Green Acres. I know you will do great in both when you get to high school. But, I’m most proud of you today because you never forget the other people who help you along the way. As you go great places in life, which you will, remembering to thank the people who help you get there will serve you very well.