I am startled by the touch on my shoulder. I turn quickly orienting myself.
It’s ok, he offers.
I pause, confused by his words.
You don’t need to get upset. One performance will not determine his future.
I realize I am crying and begin to understand why this coach is offering words of support. What he doesn’t understand is that my tears have nothing to do with baseball or my son’s future, they have everything to do with the hope I see in front of me and the power of human connection.
I was watching players from across the country come together to showcase in front of seventy college coaches. I was watching players chase their dream of getting a spot on the roster of a college they want to attend. I was watching players who have worked tirelessly as student-athletes to get this opportunity. I was watching players lay it all on the line in hopes of achieving their goals.
One might think athletes competing for their future would be cut-throat or self-serving in this situation. One might think each player would be focused on his performance or his success. One might expect each player to do his part on the team, but not be invested in the performance of his teammates. I was one of those people and I was overwhelmed at what I did see.
Athletes jumping out of the dugout to congratulate a stranger, now teammate for the day, on a great hit.
Athletes cheering each other on from the field and dugout.
Athletes quickly getting to know each other and communicating to determine how they will work together and signal each other in the game.
Athletes offering a word of encouragement after a strike out.
Athletes laughing together.
Athletes giving each other feedback and tips.
Athletes becoming a team comprised of strangers.
Athletes trying to make connections — Where are you from? I think I met your teammate. Do you know?
Athletes checking on each other.
Athletes apologizing, taking ownership, and clarifying.
Athletes reminding each other to take a breath, focus and bring it on.
Athletes pushing each other to be their best.
Athletes appreciating the best in each other for the love of the game.
I sent my son off on his own at 7:00 in the morning. As I watched him walk away I felt a pang of separation. He looked so alone. I couldn’t imagine doing what he was about to do. I am not sure I have it in me. I came back four hours later and he was part of a team. Talking, joking, encouraging and having fun doing what he loves with players who feel the same way.
On our way back to the hotel, I shared what I noticed and my reflections with him. His response came so easily and with such conviction.
You always play better with teammates who are at their best. You lift each other up. Push each other to be the best you can be. You appreciate the athlete in each other and are accountable to what you do. That’s just what you do. It’s just how the game works.
He went back to analyzing the video of his at-bats from that day and I was left wondering how we can bring this sense of team, this appreciation of those around you to life in classrooms. In a way so much is the same. A group of strangers coming together as a class. A group connected without necessarily having true connections at first. How do we make lifting each other up, appreciating the best in each other and collaborating to bring out the best in each other just how it’s done in classrooms? Can we honestly say this is just how things work in our classrooms?
I hope the next time I see a kid trying to articulate their thinking at school, I hear a classmate say, Take a breath, focus and bring it on.