I was in sixth or seventh grade when I learned an important lesson on giving folks a chance at success. The wisdom was gleaned during a kickball game played in the school parking lot since the school didn’t have athletic fields. I’ve never forgotten the lesson and have embraced the wisdom with greater understanding over the years, trying to apply it as often as possible, because I was the one given the chance then.
I was a little guy back then. Hormones were several years away. I could round the bases pretty fast, if I could get on base. (Kickball is played like baseball, except the kickball is rolled on the ground and kicked instead of being thrown and hit with an instrument.) Invariably, I was picked near the end of the team-picking process and played in the several outfield positions that is common in school-based kickball. There might be four or five outfielders, depending on how many people were in the PE class, divided by two teams. I was usually one of those, but everything changed in one game.
When the team captain assigned players to positions, he sent me to third base. I was shocked, excited and nervous. What was I going to do if a line drive kick came my way, or a screwy grounder or a limp kick rolling along the baseline? As I recall, it was in the first inning that I found out.
I think it was Fitzgerald (we used last names in those days and he was very athletic, already developing under the influence of hormones) up to kick. I believe it was the second “pitch” that he kicked, a strong, straight line drive just inside the third base line. Luckily it wasn’t very high or it would have sailed over my low-altitude head. I stepped to it and brought it in as it hit my chest and forearms. “Out!” the PE coach yelled out. My heart pounded. The “cool” guys congratulated me.
I played outfield a few more times in the future games, but the guys usually picked as team captains weren’t afraid to pick me for their teams and try me in different positions.
I learned a lot of important lessons about coaching, managing, leading and parenting in childhood experiences with friends and classmates. One of the lessons was, “Give ‘em a chance at success.” You might find a star in the making. More than likely, you’ll simply be giving someone a chance to grow, to face a challenge, to build confidence, to push boundaries…and all those outcomes are successes for them, and you.