The Boys and Girls of Summer
This weekend was tournament time for my kids and about 50 other Kent kids, as the summer boys baseball and girls softball seasons culminated in the year end competition for top honors, tournament trophies and an invitation to the state bracket. I was proud of each and every kid who put themselves out on the diamonds representing Kent with each swing of the bat. Not all of Kent’s kids have new trophies beside their pillows tonight but all of them are going to bed winners.
Going up against teams from Stow and Ravenna, Kent’s boys baseball teams had a great showing this year. One team, Pulloni Law, actually won it all; they came out on top in their bracket and will move on to play in the next round in Warren next weekend. My son’s team (Northcoast Medical) made it to the finals but they were upended by an exceptionally talented team from Ravenna. I saw other hopeful Kent parents in the adjacent fields on the final day of the tournament so I know Kent’s 13-14 year olds were also out there fighting for Kent’s honor as well.
Kent’s girl’s softball team played an exceptional game on Saturday but came up just short on the scoreboard. It’s never fun to lose but Kent’s girls played like champs and hung in there all year long despite being mostly first year kids in their age group. Good sportsmanship abounded in the girl’s games with cheers from both sides recognizing outstanding effort and good plays.
Watching these kids reminded me of the many lessons that playing sports taught me that I still use every day. There’s a lot of truth in those worn out sport’s cliches and ballfields remain a place where excellence is pursued, talent rewarded and teamwork is learned. Understanding how to compete individually and succeed as a team is an insight that is hard to come by outside of our games but is essential to almost everything we do in life.
Win or lose, Kent’s kids walked away from the games this weekend with heads held high. They put themselves out there, played hard, and worked together to try to win. Whether they realize it or not right now, those are the experiences and skills that will make them great business and community leaders someday.
For those of us who call Kent home, we too are on a Kent team and our kids have a lot to teach us about how to play the game to win. Keeping Kent great takes contributions from all of us and a respect for the different talents our teammates bring to the table. When a teammate strikes out, my son always pats him on the back, tells him he’s sure to get a hit next time and reassures him that no matter what, he’s got his back. When you do that, the final score doesn’t matter, you’ve already won. I hope we can keep that in mind as a community seeking to make Kent a great place to call home.
The very essence of leadership is dealing with our failings and fumbles in pursuit of our ideals. The best study their defeats for the lessons they offer. They never dwell on disappointment. They never lose confidence. They are always willing to take risks. They give hope. Anything less can siphon the optimism and the energy necessary to see and shape a new future — for it is tough-minded optimism that allows the best leaders to unleash the wonderful possibilities of the human spirit.
I hope that we always have problems to seek and solve. And I hope we grapple with those problems with compassion, dignity, and integrity. That is what leadership is all about.