Winners never quit
“ ‘Winners never quit’ – can you identify with that, honey?” I had just finished reading a book written by Mia Hamm, one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, to my youngest while he was in the bathtub. At one point in her life, Mia didn’t want to play soccer if she couldn’t win. But if she had given up, she would never have been the youngest woman to ever play for the U.S. Women’s National Team (at age 15), or break an all-time international goal record, or lead her team to victory in the Olympics. I had borrowed the book from my son’s kindergarten teacher just that morning.
“Whaddaya mean, mom?”
“You know, can you relate? Can you see how that applies to you?”
“Oh, yeah. Uhmmm. Yeah, well, sometimes when things get hard I want to quit.”
“Yes, honey, that’s exactly it. Sometimes you do. Sometimes I do. Sometimes other people do. But you can’t just quit every time something gets hard.”
My son had quit his t-ball team after Opening Day with a dramatic flourish that included throwing his glove in the dust and stripping off his uniform shirt and hat. He was frustrated that there are no outs in t-ball yet everyone can only take one base at a time. He protested this by walking around the bases. He is used to the “big league rules” that his brothers play, and as it turned out that day, his ambition and aptitude are not aligned. He quit again during the next game, when he stalked off the field and into the parking lot. I remained on the field with the team even though I was afraid he was going to try to walk home – fortunately a parent of one of my oldest’s friends who saw him stomping around with angry eyebrows redirected him.
After that episode, I was ready to quit. I was really annoyed because I had missed my older two boys’ games across town to be at t-ball that night. I also didn’t really want to be a coach in the first place, but the league needed t-ball coaches. I had told the head coach after two pleas were issued “I want to help but please understand that I will be juggling two other baseball teams this season.” As an aside, my older two boys have both tried out for tournament ball and because practices will be starting before the end of the regular season, it’s possible I may be juggling five teams.
Surely the fact that my son just didn’t want to play was a good enough reason to quit, wasn’t it?
But before I could get in touch with the other coaches to even discuss it, I got an email from the head coach saying that he was going to be out of town that week and it would be just the two assistant coaches running practice. And oh-by-the-way, he needed some other parents to step up because the other assistant coach (who was coaching two teams) couldn’t be at the game that Thursday. That meant I would have to be in charge, so quitting was no longer an option.
I told my son, “Mommy can’t even consider quitting, honey. There are no other coaches for the game Thursday.”
“Well, I’m not playing.”
“That’s fine, but I have to go, and that means you have to go. Just show up. You’re part of the team.”
That night he still wasn’t into it. There were two other parent volunteers, and my oldest had come along, so I asked him to shadow his younger brother. We made it through the whole game – barely. The following day was when we read the book.
Then we had a week of rain and all baseball was cancelled or rescheduled. Miraculously the clouds parted for our t-ball game on Thursday. Both of my older two would be helping that night. One of them asked his brother, “are you gonna quit today?”
Before my youngest could answer, I chimed in, “Absolutely not – this story needs a happy ending!”
And he didn’t. He ran – not walked – around the bases every time he was up. He had a turn to play “pitcher” and first base (basically the only two positions that get any “action”). His two brothers kept him interested and involved when he was anywhere else. The game went so well we had time to play an extra inning. Mrs. Head Coach handed out popsicles afterwards. What a great night!
In t-ball, everybody is a winner. I know it’s not always like that in life. There might be some things we should quit, such as bad habits, toxic friendships, or overly stressful jobs. But any time we’re unsure about what lies ahead, or any time something feels like it’s too hard remember you’re not alone. We’re all in this together. You never know who might be counting on you to be there, so just show up.
This is the invocation I delivered in church today, which I wrote with this scripture in mind: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” ~1 Corinthians 12:27