“Success is not the same thing as winning, and failure is not the same thing as losing.”
This simple statement from one of our newest contributors (Ephram A. Caflun, see “Inter-Camp Activities,” page 8), is a lesson I seem to re-learn on a regular basis.
The most recent example was yesterday on a sun-baked ball diamond in North Ridgeville, Ohio. My son’s team–the mighty Yellow Jackets–played their league-leading rivals in a regular season match-up to determine who would take the pole position at the halfway point in the season.
Like every time we’ve played these guys, the game was a well-played affair with the tension building pitch by pitch, out by out, inning by inning leading to the bottom of the seventh (the last inning in youth baseball).
With two outs, the score tied and a runner on third base, our pitcher desperately needed a strikeout or routine ground ball to push the game to extra innings. He did all he could–running the count full before delivering a nasty, sinking, two-seam fastball that the batter grounded directly at our shortstop.
At the crack of the bat, both team’s players jumped to the top step of their dugouts watching, waiting and hoping for their desired result.
Unfortunately, the folks in our dugout were disappointed. The ball stayed down and in his hurry to field the ball and make the throw, our shortstop didn’t field it cleanly. It popped out of his glove and landed at his feet. He quickly picked it up and gunned it to first, but he was a half-step late. Game over. Yellow Jackets lose.
And, yet despite the unfortunate result, I was happy. For the first time all season, our boys played through the pressure and tension of a tight game without breaking. Yeah, I wish our shortstop would have fielded the ball cleanly. Yeah, I wish he had remembered to charge the ball to buy himself some extra time for the throw. But, the bottom line is our boys competed hard with class and dignity.
They got beat, but they didn’t lose.
In the end, none of our boys broke into tears. Nobody had a bad word to say about our opponents. Nobody made excuses as to why we lost. Nobody blamed our shortstop for bobbling the last ball because they recognized that a ball game is not won or lost on one play.
It was a big moment for us because since this team first formed at the tender age of seven, our biggest obstacle had been reconciling our kid’s competitive drive with good sportsmanship. It seemed we spent more time teaching and talking about attitude, body language and mental toughness than learning how to turn two or hit the cut-off.
I bring this up because this issue deals with that very topic in interesting and varied ways. Caflun talks about it in inter-camp contests. Lony Ruhmann talks about it in creating personal treasure maps. And Nancy Ferguson talks about it in terms of learning to understand, reconnect and respect the natural world around us.
In some way, shape or form, this value-based, experiential-learning theme pops up in almost every story. I hope you enjoy the trip.
And, of course, if you have personal experiences you’d like to share with us or the rest of the camp world, please send them along. We’d love to publish them for you.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth