Keep Pursuing Your Dreams – Even When It’s Tough
This was the scene at a small bar and restaurant in December of 1961. An ambitious but pretty much unknown band arrived for a gig only to discover there were just 18 people in the place.
They could have been discouraged by the lack of attendance, and they could have decided to just hang it up after such a disappointing turnout. But they continued to believe in themselves, and knew that all that work they were putting in at obscure venues with hardly anyone watching would pay off eventually.
Most fastpitch softball players know the feeling. It can be a real grind.
Practicing in freezing cold barns in the winter and hot, smelly barns or outdoors on hot, humid days in the summer. Hours spent in private lessons, then many more hours practicing on your own.
Then you go out to a game and you stink up the field. You strike out at the plate.
You miss your spots as a pitcher or hang a pitch that gets driven toward South America. You boot a routine ground ball and follow it up by throwing the ball into the parking lot, or drop a can of corn fly ball that you should be able to catch with both eyes closed.
You begin to wonder if it’s worth it – all the time spent, all the energy expended, all the heart and soul poured into a game that doesn’t seem to love you back. You think maybe you’d be better served finding something else to do with all those hours and days.
Don’t worry, those feelings actually very normal. It can be difficult to work that hard at something only to see it go bad anyway.
The thing to remember, however, is that failure (or near-failure) is only temporary. It’s also an opportunity to learn and grow.
If you struck out, whether once or every time, figure out why. Was your timing off? Were you dropping your hands and looping your swing (even though you’ve been working on not doing that)?
If you struggled as a pitcher did you focus on your mechanics when you practiced or did you just throw the ball for a prescribed period of time? Did you demand more of your pitches or did you just say “good enough” and move on?
If you had trouble fielding or throwing did you put in extra time or just stick to the minimums?
The reality is whether you do well or not is largely in your own hands. Yes, it helps to have quality coaches and/or quality training, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be blessed with an abundance of athletic ability. None of those things are within your control.
But what is under your control is your approach to getting better. You can decide how hard you work.
You can decide how you spend your time each day, each practice. You can decide how you will react to things that are outside of your control.
And most of all, you can decide whether you are willing to do the things that are necessary to achieve your dreams or will give up at the first sign of adversity.
My recommendation, of course, is if you love fastpitch softball find a way to fight through the tough times and keep an eye on your goal. Because again, failure is only permanent if you let it be.
You can get better if you want to – and are willing to pay the price. It won’t be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is.
As for that obscure little band from a rough-and-tumble working class city not exactly known for its contribution to the arts, things definitely did get better for them after that sparsely attended performance on a cold winter’s night in December 1961.
By December the following year they had secured a recording contract and released their first single. It didn’t do especially well but it was a start.
Within another few months they would see their next single reach #1 on the pop charts, and things would keep getting better from there. Eventually they would change the world – more than once.
Here’s a better look at that band from December 1961.
Everyone starts somewhere. The ones who make it are the ones who keep plugging away.
Getting Up for a Game When You’re Not Feeling It
Every fastpitch softball player faces this situation sooner or later: it’s game day, and you’re just not feeling it.
Maybe it’s been a long season and you’re tired. Maybe it’s hot and humid out and you don’t handle hot and humid well. Maybe all your non-softball friends are doing something and you wish you could do it too. Maybe you’re so nervous about a big game that you just don’t feel like yourself.
Whatever the cause, feeling that you’re not feeling it can definitely get in the way of your performance. That’s where it helps to take a lesson from some famous musicians.
I’ve read interviews with several famous musicians who were asked how they managed to put so much energy into their performances night after night despite the grueling toll it takes to go from city to city and play for months at a time.
The answer they give is typically something to the effect of: “Yes, it can be hard, and there are times in the hotel or backstage that I just don’t feel like playing. I think maybe I can get by giving it just the minimal amount of effort. But then I think about the fan who saved his/her money to come and see me play, and this will be his/her only chance this year. Maybe it’s a first date, or an anniversary, or a birthday or something else special. Maybe it’s just someone who needs a little lift in their life. When I think about that, I realize I owe it to that person to do the very best I can, if for no other reason than to thank them. And I want them to walk away feeling like it was more than worth the money they spent.”
What a great attitude. They realize that in the line of work they’ve gone into they’ve made a bargain, and they need to keep up their end of it.
For fastpitch softball players it’s a little different. In our case, yes, there are the fans who came out to see the team play. It might be someone’s grandma who finally made it out to a game and hopes her granddaughter’s team will win. Or a little sister who is going to draw her impressions of the game by what she sees on the field. Or the brother home on leave from the military who wants a little piece of home in his life before he goes back to wherever he’s stationed.
But there might also be a college coach, or someone connected to a higher-level team, watching as well. What that person sees, that day, will be his/her first and most lasting impression of you. A great performance might catch his/her eye for the future. A poor one might get in the way of your goals down the line.
Even if none of that is the case, however, think about your coach. He/she made a decision to put you on the team and give you an opportunity to play. You also owe that person your very best. Every. Single. Time. You. Play.
Always remember that putting on that uniform and taking the field is a privilege. A lot of things had to happen the right way for you to have that privilege – starting with being born in a country where playing fastpitch softball is even an option.
Learn to appreciate the opportunity you have and you’ll learn how to feel it even when you’re not feeling it at first. And that, more than anything, will help you become the player you’re destined to be.
What a way to end your career
Just had to give one last shout out to Kirsten Stevens at the University of Wisconsin Madison for ending her fastpitch softball career with a bang. Kirsten was named to the Eugene Regional All-Tournament team after a stellar performance last weekend.
Her key accomplishment in the Regional was throwing a 2-0, five-hit shutout against the UIC Flames in a must-win game. It’s my understanding that this was the farthest UW Madison has gone in the NCAA Division 1 tournament in its history, and she got to be a contributor to the team getting there.
In that game, Kirsten secure 8 strikeouts, including one to end the nail-biter of a 7th inning when UIC threatened to tie the game by opening the inning with two hits to put runners on first and second with no outs. But Kirsten bore down, getting the next hitter to pop up a bunt attempt on a lovely riseball to relieve some pressure, then inducing another out before finishing out the game with the final K to send UW Madison to the finals against Oregon.
It was quite the storybook finish for her. Or so it appeared.
The next day, Kirsten was brought in to throw one more time after UW Madison fell behind the Ducks. After settling in she was able to secure three outs, including once again finishing out the inning with a K, bringing her tournament total to 9, which was second only to Oregon star Maggie Balint. Her tournament ERA was 0.88, which was also good for second-best, this time behind Oregon’s Miranda Elish, who blanked the Badgers in the final. To add to the accomplishments, Kirsten gave up no walks in 8 innings pitched, making her #1 in K/BB ratio. Needless to say, she was on fire.
It was quite a way for the senior to finish a great career filled with many accolades. Congrats to Kirsten on a job, and a pitching career, well done.