My oldest daughter is a serious fastpitch softball player. If I haven’t already bragged enough, she’s going to West Point this fall on a full athletic scholarship. But this spring, she and I have been coaching a Little League softball team of 12-year-olds. She’s the coach, and I’m the assistant coach.
Like so many coaches have realized over the years, it isn’t easy, primarily because of the parents. If the parents would simply trust the coaches, who usually know more about the game than they do, they could relax and know that their child is playing in the best position for their abilities and skill set.
Last night, after playing a game against a team with whom we were equally matched, we lost a close game, because our two pitchers walked several batters. We have asked the girls for the last several weeks to practice pitching on their own time, 15 minutes a day, because their position is so important. Prior to the game last night, I asked both pitchers if they’ve been practicing as we’ve asked them. They both replied “no.”
So, after they gave the game away due to walking the batters, I sat them down afterward, because my daughter wasn’t at the game due to playing in her own high school game. I talked to them about all the right things they did, and how some of them had made some awesome plays, and then I talked about how we simply lost the game because the pitchers hadn’t been practicing.
That didn’t sit well with one of the pitchers’ moms. She sent me a searing email this morning, telling me that I had hurt her daughter’s feelings, and that she may not have the confidence to go back out as a pitcher, and that what I said was inappropriate. I sent her back an email talking about how her daughter, as a pitcher, has a higher degree of responsibility than the other players, because the entire team is counting on her. If she’s going to take on the responsibility, then she needs to do the practicing on her own time. And also, if my daughter and I didn’t have the confidence in her to handle that position, we wouldn’t have put her there.
I told this parent a story about my daughter that happened a few years ago. She was on a different select softball team than she is now, and she wanted desperately to be a short stop. But the coach put her into center field, and my daughter hated it. She felt like the infield was where the action was, and she was sure she could be a better short stop than the girl who was in the position. Yet the coach had made her a center fielder because she was the fastest girl on the team, and she could cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Christian, my daughter, harrangued her coach for months about wanting to play short stop. During this time, even the other players on the team told her what an awesome center fielder she was. But Christian was determined to be a short stop. After occupying the center field position for a year, and when the next spring season had come, the coach finally relented and offered her the short stop position. But by that time, all the voices that had spoken into her life–the coach, her teammates, her parents–finally sunk in, and she realized that she was an awesome center fielder. She was born to run. So she turned down the short stop position, and she’s been a center fielder ever since, and extremely proud of it. And since then, she has made some awesome catches–picture perfect, stretched out in an incredible dive and just barely catching the ball. The kind of catches that make sports recaps on TV.
Isn’t that how we get sometimes? God puts us in places where we don’t want to be. We squirm. We complain. We look over the fence and think that the grass is greener on the other side. But He alone knows what we were born to do. He alone knows what we are capable of, and what He equipped us to do better than most other people. And if you have placed your life in God’s hands, He has planted you where He knows you can shine, but He expects you to do your part. He expects you first of all to trust Him and trust in where He’s placed you. It isn’t by accident. It’s by divine design.
If you were born to run, like my daughter, then run with everything you’ve got and dive if you have to. If you were born to pitch, then shoulder the extra responsibility, do your practicing and your homework, and pitch a winning game. If you were born to be a first baseman and stand patiently waiting with your mitt open for someone to field the ball and get it to you on time, then do it to the best of your ability, even if it means you have to stretch further than you thought you could to catch the ball, and make the out.
Look around you. Where has God placed you? What do you believe are your God-given talents and abilities that He expects you to exercise in your everyday life? Wherever you are, unless you’re on a one-person island in the middle of the ocean, you have influence over others. God expects you to use your influence and your gifts for His glory. When my daughter gets discouraged coaching a team that’s had far more losses than wins, I tell her, “Remember, this is far more than about winning. These kids will never forget you as a coach, because you’re a 17-year-old senior in high school who took on a team, and your influence will reach for the rest of their lives.”
Bloom where you’re planted, because you were planted by our Great God with great care.