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The hard…makes it great.

Endings… Beginnings. Cheers of elation. Tears of sadness. Not everything is easy. In fact, so often it gets hard. As athletes, we sometimes feel like the game is harder than we can bear. We fall down. We lose. We have no more chances to get back up again. It’s over. And there is nothing we can do about it. But it’s in the hard that we become great. It’s the hard that makes us appreciate the times when the trophy isn’t so elusive…when we don’t fall just short of the prize. The hard…makes it great.

I was lucky this year to have been a part of three different team’s postseason runs. Fordham University Softball, Nazareth Academy Softball, and Unionville HS Lacrosse. All three made it just as far if not farther than they have ever been. All three fell just short of the ultimate prize. They were a small few that made it to postseason, the time of the season that so many other opponents never have known.

It seems fitting that I write this on the night that the Flyers saw the Stanley Cup slip through their hands, regardless of the fight and determination they showed to get to where they were. Yet, even though they didn’t win tonight, it doesn’t take away from the fight and determination…at all.

Watching all three of the teams I worked with, they all have something in common.

They set a new standard. They created a tradition of excellence with their name on it.

They aren’t afraid of the hard.

The movie “A League of Their Own” has a special place in my heart. It is, of course, about women playing baseball. What could be more perfect in my world than that?? A game I grew up playing myself, and had dreams when I was young of being a baseball player. Little did I know when I was 7, that girls don’t grow up to be baseball players. Well, the movie, to me, proved that anything is really possible.

Perhaps one of the greatest moments in the whole movie is the dialogue between Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan and Geena Davis’s character, Dottie Hinson. She was leaving to go home with her husband and Jimmy stopped to talk to her. It went like this…

Jimmy Dugan: I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.

Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.

Jimmy Dugan: It’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great!

I spent a lot of time with that quote. In my career, in my personal life, in my heart. I get it more than sometimes I think I do. I watch others get so close to success… then just quit. I watch teams rise and fall, ride the rollercoaster and end the ride at the lowest point of the track. I watched people in sports and in life just give up. Throw in the towel. Let it all go. I have too. More than once. When it’s hard, it’s easy to do.

But this past month I learned a lot about giving up. I learned a lot about character and drive. Watching these three teams of young ladies fight… each one of them, until the very last second possible. Never giving up, never thinking about surrendering. Understanding what it means to be great, even though they weren’t holding a trophy at the end of the journey. They set a new standard. They made me believe in triumphs again, even when it’s hard… and ESPECIALLY when it’s hard.

I am so proud to know each and every one of them. The classiness, the courage, the poise they each had handling an outcome they didn’t want…

I truly believe that when you grind it out and come up just short… well, this is the hardest moment of them all. And in that moment emerges TRUE greatness. I mean, as we all know, winning isn’t hard. It’s filled with glamour and applause and cheers and accolades and awards, and wow, I mean… who wouldn’t want that??

But putting it in perspective now, I see how much standing on the other side watching that celebration that is the other jersey, the wrong colors and the wrong fans… well, that’s one of the hardest things to do. Wishing it was you. Wishing you could feel what that feels like. Wanting the pain in your chest to go away. Yeah, sounds like I may have had some experience with that too…
I know it well. And it’s hard. And thank God for that! I am so glad to have grown through all of my losses.
So to the three teams I worked with this season…Congratulations to all of you. You became who you are today through every moment of it. You deserve the biggest trophy of them all. You got through the hard.

And the hard….yes… that makes it great.

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