This year I reluctantly played on a recreational softball league with my coworkers. It’s not something I wanted to do but I joined anyways. I played a few games knowing it would be a great way to connect with my coworkers and get a bit of exercise.
Let me start off by telling you why there was reluctance to join the team. This goes back to my childhood and our local Little League baseball system.
The baseball field was basically in our backyard. I could look over our fence and see the baseball field. The concession stand. The playground equipment. It was a wonderland.
Until I joined the baseball team. Then it became a place of dread.
I’ll be the first to admit. I wasn’t the best ball player. No siree. I pretty much stunk.
But what sticks with me is that I wasn’t given much of a chance to play. Sure, during practice I was given the chance to hit, to play the outfield, and enjoy the game. Yet when game time came, I was benched. For the whole season.
This allowed me to feel the humiliation of watching my friends play the game.
Phil got his chance to shine. Jesse was able to swing the back and strike the ball. Nick was able to run the bases.
I got to sit on the bench…
And I entered the recreational softball team with trepidation, as could be expected. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how open the guys were to players who weren’t up to their skill level.
From here, I learned many leadership lessons I never expected to learn from a ball game.
1. Everyone starts with the same count: Our softball league starts everyone out with one ball and one strike. Everyone starts out on the same foot.
In our leadership, we all start as novices. Some of us may start earlier or later than others but we all start with the same count.
2. Coaches matter: There’s the head coach of the team, then there’s the first base coach, and finally the third base coach. They’re there to give you direction. They’ll also let you know whether or not they think it’s a good idea to run or stay on the bag.
Every leader needs at least one great coach in their life. The coach is there to give guidance to the leader and to help make wise decisions. Choosing the right coach and deciding whether or not to listen to his advice can make all the difference in the level of leadership you reach.
3. When you connect with the ball, you gotta run: At some point you’re going to connect with the ball. You’ve got to be willing and able to run once you hear the crack of the bat as the ball meets metal. Run for the base!
You’ll be throwing out ideas and visions as a leader. Your idea will connect at some point. When it does, you have to be willing to run with it. Don’t hesitate. Run full tilt!
4. There will be times when you have to throw caution to the wind: I made a base hit and we had two outs. The next man came up to the plate and I was ready. The first base coach was instructing me that we already had two outs and once the batter connected with the ball, I was to RUN. There was no point in being cautious at this point as there was only one more out to be had.
Sometimes you’ll come to a place in leadership where it won’t matter what happens. All that matters is you put forth all your effort and go for the next objective. If you make it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine. You gave the effort and tried.
5. Having the best tools doesn’t guarantee success: There are ball players who come dressed in all of the proper gear. They’ve got the cleats, the baseball pants, and the baseball jersey. They look like they’re ready to play the game. Until they’re on the field. Then you see them drop the ball, trip over the bag, and strike out. The gear really didn’t matter.
The same holds true in leadership. You can have all the tools in the world. If you don’t know how to properly use the tools, they mean nothing. Learn to use the equipment properly and you can rock out your leadership.
6. Practice the correct techniques: Softball players know if they want to improve, they’ve got to practice, practice practice. More than that, they’ve got to practice the proper techniques. They’ve got to perfect their form. They’ve got to increase their speed. They’ve got to make sure they’re doing the practice right.
Your leadership will suffer if you’re practicing the wrong techniques. Learn from great leaders that have gone before you. Follow their example. Do what they did. And then make it your own.
7. Have fun: Like I said at the beginning of the post, I was never a great ball player. My youth baseball career had me sitting my behind on the bench. I took the game too seriously and so did the coach. He wanted to win (and he should have that desire). But it was a youth league that was meant to have fun. And I think we lacked that on our team.
My work softball team knew different. They knew we were out there to bond and have a good time. We might not have won many games but we did enjoy ourselves.
Leaders, you need to be focused on the win but you also have to make the journey enjoyable. Don’t make the trek to victory so miserable no one wants to succeed. Instead, make it fun and make it a success.
Question: What have you learned from joining a recreational sports team? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.