Thursday, June 30, 2011

Have heart, you just might lose

“Why can't every one of you play like Kevin. If all of you did that, we'd be undefeated. He just plays with such heart. Lord knows he isn't good, but wow, what effort!”

This is the motivational speech that every one of my coaches has given to the team at some point in time. And I'm not speaking hyperbole when I say that. It's literally every coach, from baseball to soccer to made-up sports like Hopscotch, Magicianing or Ultimate Frisbee.

Some employed more profanity in their statements, but the basic idea remained—I sucked. Of course, I could only respond to this “motivation” by sitting there uncomfortably and saying, “Hi...” or “Yup, I sure do suck!”

My goal wasn't to make people hate me, my crappy ballhandling accomplished that. I couldn't help but feel like the star of a nature documentary. You know there's always the scene featuring a lion preying upon the old and weak antelope? And then, although the thing is old and weak, it still puts up a heck of a fight before ultimately succumbing to a horrific and ghastly death that makes the documentary-viewing audience cheer with bloodlust? I am that antelope. My coaches noticed this and raised me up as the antelope. I guess the strategy intended to make the rest of the team into vicious carnivores.

I also made a really good heckler. Just look at the fat blue
guy's demoralization. Now look at my heart.
But here's the thing, this strategy didn't work. It's like my coaches pointed out the blinding obvious and then expected it to motivate the rest of the team. It didn't. They would have been equally successful claiming “The sun is yellow!” or shouting “The Quadratic Equation solves for ax^2 + bx + c = 0 by placing -b plus or minus the square root of b2 – 4ac all over 2a!” While these statements are equally true, they do nothing to inspire the troops.

I fully admit I'm not a good sportsplayer guy. The only thing I have going for me is I can run... kind of. While this might make me a strong track person (not “track star”), it does little for other sports, ones that are “fun.” However, those ones also require “coordination.” Running without coordination apparently equals heart. And my coaches definitely locked onto this heart.

But after my coaches made these statements, we'd either win, or we'd lose (most likely the latter). What he said didn't inspire us, the outcome came from someone on the other team pulling a vital life muscle or exactly when the earth stopped spinning on its axis and sent a ball in the net.

I'll admit, I've never actually coached anything. The closest I've come is being an assistant director for a youth theater group. However, my main task in that environment involved controlling the raging hormones of pre-teen actors and also dream casting which pre-teen actors would fit into which role for a stage production of “Pulp Fiction.”

Lesson learned - heart can only get you clip art trophies.
But trust me, the real deal look fantastic.
From that experience, I learned all I needed to know about coaching/leading/running a cult. I just needed to say what was true and stick to it. Only in hindsight do I realize my coaches had no clue what they were talking about. All they knew is we were losing, and we shouldn't be. And I knew Fletcher would make an awful Winston Wolfe. We needed to gender switch the roles, because nine-year-old Katie would be perfect for that position.

In a similar roundabout fashion, I realize my coaches weren't the best. They did what they could, I was an easy image of what worked, so they latched onto it. But they latched onto someone who sucked—their mistake.

Even with the suck, I did have the heart. My coaches correctly surmised that point. There's nothing like going out there and giving it the old college try. Who knows, all this heart might result in a trophy rack full of somewhat impressive second place trophies.

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