I said words to this effect to my son in March 2010. He’d just failed to make the junior high baseball team for the third straight year. He was heartbroken and in tears. He wasn’t the most gifted ballplayer on the field; he was very small for his age but was a scrappy, pugnacious ballplayer with game smarts who could work the count, hit, bunt, get on base, steal bases. He’s a ballplayer who really had to work for his success.
He wanted to make the team so badly, and my heart hurt knowing I couldn’t take his pain away. So I did something to help him: “I feel terrible for you, son, but I can’t feel sorry for you.”
Certainly a strange thing to say to make him feel better. And it was. Yes, I said a lot of other things to help build him back up, make him feel better. But I also had to mix-in some truth. That’s why I said what I did. As you might expect, there’s a back-story.
For three straight years, he did no work in the off-season to give himself a fighting chance to make the team. He rejected my offers to take him to the indoor batting cages over the winter or do some fielding and hitting drills in the basement. Each year, he put down his glove in August after his rec league season ended and only picked it up again for the first day of spring practice for junior high.
He felt awful the first time he was cut, and I told him “Patrick, remember how this feels and next year let’s work out in the winter.” Same thing happened year two. And the same thing happened year three.
The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital. Patrick wanted to win but didn’t prepare. And he didn’t learn lessons from the past.
I could’ve said “It’s not your fault” or “You were good enough to make the team” or “The coach made a mistake”. But these wouldn’t have been honest or helpful. The truth is that he needed to understand that if you want something bad enough, that you need to plan, work, sacrifice. In the end, you still may miss-out on what you want, but you’ll have no regrets, knowing that you gave it your all.