Several years ago I had the opportunity to coach my son’s T-ball team. It was awesome. I remember one game in particular. We had just taken the field, and my son Hudson settled in at second base. It was the first inning of the game, and the first batter hit a shot to Hudson. Hudson thrust his glove down toward the dirt, turned his head away in self- preservation, and braced for impact. The next thing I saw was Hudson looking at the ball in his glove half shocked and all excited. He made his throw to first, and the runner was out! What happened next has stuck with me through the years. Hudson had at least five other balls hit to him that day with varying degrees of difficulty. He confidently fielded all five and threw the runner out, each time making it look simple. Speaking of looks, that is what I remember the most. He looked so confident. It did not matter what came at him, he knew he could handle it. Making that first play gave him the confidence to make the ones that followed. It was great.

After the game, I saw a teaching moment. I talked to Hudson about making that first play and the confidence it gave him to make the others. I talked to him about what would have happened if he had missed the first ball and how that if that happens he should shake it off and play the next play. It is easy to react to making a great play. It is tougher to react to a missed play. Missing a play doesn’t change what will come at you next. The early play really only matters in relation to mindset. Missing a play early should not affect your mindset. Shake it off. What is coming at you next is coming at you regardless. You can’t control that, but you can control your mindset. You may have missed that last play, but you are getting the next one. As a matter of fact, you can’t wait to get the next opportunity. A miss is an abnormality. They got lucky. Circumstance is not in control, you are.

This idea goes far beyond the ball fields. We all have difficult “plays” to make. They may not be sharply hit ground balls. For us they may be sales that need to be made, tests that need to be passed, presentations that need to go well, or relationships that need to be healed. What do we do when we don’t make the play?

Three things we can learn from T-Ball:

  1. Learn to Give Yourself a Chance

At times, T-ballers don’t know what they don’t know, and that is a good thing. Unlike adults, they don’t know the things they are not supposed to be able to do. Luckily, they don’t have everything figured out. They swing hard, run fast, and turn left. Some of us adults have forgotten what is feels like to swing for the fence. You have to give yourself a chance. Many times I see people give up before they ever have a chance to succeed. Those voices, real or imagined, once again telling them why they can’t get that job, make that sale, pass that test, or whatever else it is they are trying to knock out of the park. Sometimes you just have to knock it out of park, get it in gear, and get moving. Just do something. I am not saying that knowledge and preparation are not important; it’s just action is important as well. Romans 8:31 tells us, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” That is a pretty simple statement. What is stopping you? Is it, uh, complicated? The life of a T-baller is simple. It’s the adults who tend to complicate things. Maybe it’s us who need to be working on the basics (ouch). What was it that Wayne Gretzky said…you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take? T-ballers are not afraid to take another shot at it regardless of how unsuccessful previous attempts might have been. They step up to the plate confident that they can hit a homerun every time. As adults, we need to have this same confidence. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The complicated has already been done. Jeremiah’s words ring clear; the field is lined and ready. We just need to show up and “play.”

  1. Learn to Keep Your Sense of  Wonder

One thing that is always present at a T-ball game is a sense of joyful wonder. Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Kids are smiling, and parents and grandparents are cheering. The game is like magic to T-ballers. They do not have an explanation for the things that are happening. They just know it is fun. I fear that as adults, many times we allow things to lose their magic. Mark Twain loved the Mississippi River and all of its wonder. He wanted to work on the boats that traveled up and down that mighty river. He found out that learning about something behind the scenes sometimes causes wonder to be lost and replaced with realistic explanations. Fun is replaced with fact. Mark Twain wrote, “Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition. But I had lost something, too. I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived. All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river!” As adults we must find a way to learn and mature without losing our childlike wonder. What reality is crushing your spirit? What is causing you to lose your wonder? Are you losing your joy? Fix this now. No really, fix this now. Feed your joy; find your wonder.

  1. Learn to Play the Next Play

T-ballers handle success and failure with the same mindset. They certainly do not overthink things. They trust the adults around them to handle the details. They are there to play and have fun. If something good happens, they play the next play. If something bad happens, they play the next play. The score can be counted up at the end. I like that, counting the score up at the end. Fail forward. Struggles make us stronger. Find your better on the way to your best. We don’t have to have it all figured out. Our understanding is not always the best compass. T-ballers rely on trust and not understanding. Proverbs 3:5,6 tells us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So am I telling you that God’s got this? Pretty much. And I am not the only one saying it. Ben Carson was recently quoted saying, “Do your best and let God handle the rest.” It’s not brain surgery, right? Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Keep shooting. Play the next play. As adults, we sometimes let our understanding get in the way of our success. We allow stinkin’ thinkin’ to hold us back. Sometimes we need a check up from the neck up. It is best for us to understand that we may not understand. Playing the next play means controlling the things we can control to the very best of our ability and not wasting time and energy on the things we can’t control. Often we find that we are not doing all we can do. If you can do better, then you do better. It really is that simple. Don’t let your mind complicate the matter.

I will never forget watching Hudson that day, making plays and having fun. That’s what it’s all about. The T-ball years were so much fun. It was such a blessing to be able to coach those guys. Hopefully, they learned a little; I know that I learned a lot. Give yourself a chance. Keep your sense of wonder. Play the next play. Whatever is coming at you next, you can handle it. Oh, yes, and swing for the fence. Just remember to adequately stretch before doing so. Batter up!!