So far, it’s been a rough day for the Mudcats, my oldest son Jack’s baseball team. They’re playing a one-day round-robin pre-season tournament- the old three hyphen variety- and it’s not looking good.
The last time they laced up their cleats and donned their black and red jerseys was last summer, an end of season tournament that they won. Today, well, today is going a whole lot differently.
They looked rusty in the first game and fell behind by three quickly. They battled back then fell behind again. A four run rally in the top of the last inning tied it up, but an overthrow in the bottom of that inning gave the other team a walk-off victory.
The second game started right away and it looked close- tied 1-1 – after the first inning. But a couple innings later and they are down an area code. Or so it seems.
I look at my son in left field and his head is, understandably low. I get it. No one likes to lose. To lose a close one and then get slaughtered makes things worse. But he’s got another game to play and I know I’ll need to say something to get his spirits back up.
I’ve never been Yogi Berra. I’ve never been a great coach. I don’t have that much experience to be wise. But when it comes to sports, there’s only one piece of advice I have ever given my kids- control your hustle.
Usually it comes out in the form of a question- “what’s the one thing you can control?” I’ll ask them. “My hustle,” they respond.
I tell them that there will always be better players. There will always be better athletes. There will always be people with more experience, smarts and skills. You can’t control that. No one can. The only thing you can control is how hard you are willing to work. And if you work harder than anyone, you will never lose- no matter what the scoreboard, test score or school board says.
The Mudcats are going to have to dig deep today. They are going to have to find the strength to come back, to shake things off and compete. But I hope that, at the end of the day, they measure their value in terms of the effort they put in and not just the runs they put up.
After all, they can’t control the outcome. They can’t control how good or prepared the other teams are. There’s only one thing they can control and that’s their hustle.
It’s the best any one of us can do.