Real Champions

I am not a baseball fan by any means.  It’s one of the sports I don’t like to watch at all.  The last time I watched a full game was back in college when I knew a player or two.  The weekend the Little League World Series started, I was in Cincinnati without benefit of a TV, but I kept seeing one of my auntie’s status updates on Facebook about the games and the team from Waipio.  I was intrigued.  I missed the first two games, but I got to watch the rest.

I was impressed with the team and their ability to stay focused even when they made mistakes.   I saw a lot of the pitchers they were up against simply fall apart with each mistake they made.  You could see the downtrodden look as another Hawai`i hitter got a hit or a home run or the pitcher threw a ball or hit the hitter with his pitch.  It made me think of zen.  The pitchers were letting each mistake eat at them, which affected their performance.  Meanwhile, Waipio players would make a mistake and move on, which enhanced their performance.  I think we can all relate to the opponents though.  I know I’ve let mistakes mess with my performance in many different areas.  There is power behind the thoughts we allow to run through our heads.  We get mired down in the negative thoughts and end up ruminating ourselves into depression.  We over-think in the middle of a performance, whether school, work, sports, or the arts, and we end up with a less than stellar performance.  And, you have the connection between your thinking and its effects on your health.

During the U.S. Championship game, the Texas pitcher was really struggling.  I could see him mentally beating himself up on the mound after nearly every pitch.  He looked like he couldn’t not stop thinking negatively about his performance and it just kept getting worse.  His manager came out several times to encourage him and help him focus on the game and not the mistakes.  That manager did an awesome job of really coaching.  He came out one inning and asked the pitcher if he wanted to keep pitching or if he wanted someone to relieve before the planned change.  The pitcher said he wanted to stay in and I believe it was Orel Hershiser that said something like, “A real winner keeps going despite difficulty.”  He is right and I think that’s a lesson that is lost on the generations that have grown up in the no-scoring sports teams.   If you aren’t told when you are making mistakes, you don’t know you’re making them.  If you aren’t taught how to learn from them, you never do.  You never grow.

When we think of champions we think of the winners.  The medalists that are up on the podiums.  The ones with the trophies.  We forget about the ones that they competed against.  Those were people who worked hard just to make it to that one game or performance.  Look at Avis car rental.  They know they aren’t #1 and they use that in their slogan.  We try harder.  Not being the best gives you something to keep working toward.  If you are consistently performing well though, that says something.  You are working.  You are trying harder.  I’ve seen so many people get upset and frustrated because something they did wasn’t absolutely perfect.  When that sets in, we lose sight of the growth we should be going through.  That Texas pitcher may not have done his best, but he stuck with it and tried.  In fact, all the boys from the teams there at the series are champions.  They all worked hard together to get their team to that level.  Win or lose, you can’t deny that.

The World Championship game between Waipio and Japan was intense.  There were a lot of serious focused faces going on on both sides.  Japan was playing a very strong pitcher and they weren’t getting many hits when they were on offense.  That didn’t slow them down.  I saw the determination on their faces all the way through the last pitch.  They even took a page out of Japan’s play book and got aggressive on stealing bases when they had the opportunity.  Adapting their level of play to match that of their opponents.

In the end, Japan won and became the Little League World Champions.  The boys from Waipio will always be champions in my eyes though for their level of play, the big hearts they played with, the fun you could see they were having through their smiles, and never giving up for second of play.



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