I read several books as intended over the last week. This one stuck with me.” One Shot at Forever” is a look at a small town baseball team from Illinois.
At the highest level, the story runs much like Hoosiers, with a small-town Illinois baseball team going on an unlikely run against larger schools. But the real power of the book comes from the interplay of an Eisenhower-era town stuck in the 1950s, a coach straight out of the hippie-ville 1960s, a bunch of kids coming of age in the early 1970s, and the memories of their youth still seared in their minds as adults.
Those memories are the real payoff of what’s already an engaging story. The narrative is enthralling on its own, but the way those games of their youth still stick in the psyche of many of the players, who now are in their 50s and 60s, goes right to what we cherish about high school sports — whether we played them, coached them, or just cheered on our hometown heroes.
Leadership is influence. The Macon Baseball coach, Coach Sweet, made a difference in these kids’ lives. We can we all learn from Coach Sweet.
What Sweet realized early on was that you’re better off empowering kids than trying to contain them. He wanted his students, and his players, to push boundaries and question convention. Just as important, he believed in them. That’s a very powerful thing for a 16-year-old boy, to have an authority figure who believes in you and tells the world this. It’s no surprise that the kids—now men—still love Sweet, just as each new class of players did for years after that.
As Worthington coaches and athletes begin fall sports practices over the next few weeks my hope is that every athlete has a coach that they know really believes in them and cares for them both as athletes and as people. Worthington will never be the small-town story. We are more like the Lane Tech’s and Waukegan’s of the book who seem to have all the advantages of size, wealth, premium facilities, and multiple uniforms. The Macon students didn’t have any of these things and yet, they succeeded.
Woody Hayes used to say, “You win with people.” All the advantages that we have in Worthington help, but ultimately the success of our fall sports will come down to the relationships our coaches have with our students. Each season our athletes create memories that they will carry for life. I have those memories personally, my guess is you do as well. This year let’s make certain one of the memories for our athletes is that “the coach believed in me and thus I learned to believe in myself.”