June 15, 2014

Patience and Softball

I begin on a random note: when I write, I nearly always listen to music. I usually (always?) end up with something on the "classical" spectrum. I wonder if other bloggers listen to music when they write. I also wonder whether I choose music based on how I feel...or what I want to write.  I suspect that the music I choose is dictated by my mood, and that the manner and topic upon which I write is similarly based.

With that said...you have my apologies for the length of the below blog....

My Daughter (9 y.o.) has two softball coaches, one for her recreational team and one for her "local" travel team. The teams are for ages 10 and under, though because of the cutoff dates, there are more than a few girls who are now over 10 years old. Daughter turned 9 last September, which means that she is more than a year younger than some of the girls. With the physical differences that presents, both coaches have elected to play her in the outfield (with occasional placement at 2nd, catcher, and bench - the latter due to team overpopulation), with concerns for her ability to deflect hard-hit balls.

This, of course, has been frustrating for Daughter, who (naturally) has difficulty discerning negative differences between herself and other players. "Negative" differences, here, meaning those qualities in a player which are as important as the obvious (good hitting, good fielding, good pitching, etc.) but are not as obvious to the less trained eye. I think here of knowledge of the game, situational awareness, and (in this instance) reaction time.

It is this last quality which Daughter may not perceive as easily, and until a recent exchange with one coach, I did not either. I understand it more now, and am thankful for that. While I am a moderate natural athlete, I am not trained or practiced  in baseball or softball, save perhaps some high school phys-ed outings. The only sport to which I can lay claim to any knowledge (note: I do not claim "ability") is golf, and that played rarely enough.

So, this season has been, to some extent, an exercise in mild frustration. Though I would not speak too much for her, I would hazard that my wife (as a former soccer, softball, and basketball player) has been more frustrated than I, as she had hopes for Daughter to get more experience playing infield, particularly catcher (as she has played the last 2 years).

Reflecting on this frustration and considering it in depth has taken time and discussion - both with my wife, with Daughter, and with myself. I am not sure that I am "over" the frustration entirely. And yet...and yet, Daughter has grown in so many ways this season - this season that is her first foray into "adult" softball. She has great joy in her teammates, and they in her. She bats better than ever, throws further and more accurately than ever, and is more focused and thoughtful on the field and off. This from a girl of whom the coaches said even at the start of the season that she has an excellent attitude and is very coachable.

So, this has been a lesson for me in patience. It is a lesson well-learned, and is probably one in which I need work (among others, naturally). The great writer Josef Pieper had this to say of patience (one of the seven classical Christian virtues):
Patience is not the indiscriminate acceptance of any sort of evil: "It is not the one who does not flee from evil who is patient but rather the one who does not let himself thereby be drawn into disordered sadness." To be patient means not to allow the serenity and discernmet of one's soul to be taken away. Patience, then, is not the tear-streaked mirror of a "broken" life (as one might almost think, to judge from what is frequently shown and praised under this term) but rather is the radiant essence of final freedom from harm. Patience is, as Hildegard of Bingen states, "the pillar that is weakened by nothing.”
There are those who say that God sends (meaning, in this sense, "causes") events to happen to "test" one's virtues...to give one opportunity to work on them. I do not think this is the case. However, I do believe that one is presented with numerous opportunities, daily, and over lengthier time, to exercise virtue, and to learn what one should have done with reflection. And so, in this case, I have been hasty, but see, looking back, that patience was called for, and with patience, forgiveness of self, and teaching of Daughter, so that I might model patience for her, in word and in deed.