Lessons I learned from watching sports

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

By Tonya S. Swindell

Excitedly I said, “This is suspenseful!” while my oldest son and I watched the 10th inning in the seventh game of the 112th World Series.

I typically watch baseball for what Wikipedia defines as “the annual championship series of Major League Baseball in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League champion team and the National League champion team.”

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The Cleveland Indians had not won the championship for 68 years and the Chicago Cubs for 108 years. I considered what it was like for managers, players and fans to overcome doubts about their team’s destiny.

And 2016 presented a new opportunity, a chance to compete at the pinnacle of their profession.

The Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year drought after being down three games to one early in the series. After a short rain delay, the final score was 8-7.

Joe Maddon, Cubs manager; and Ben Zobrist, second baseman and MVP, accepted their trophies and made acknowledgements. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians manager, appeared gracious in defeat.

A commentator spoke about Theo Epstein, president of Cubs baseball operations, and his winning strategy, saying: “It did take ‘em a while. Of course, they had to lose a lot of games to get that plan enacted; but you are exactly right. This is just a team as well as Cleveland built to win a few more years than just right now.”

Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs first baseman, reported experiencing “a lot of ups and downs.” Outfielder Jason Heyward described a pep talk he gave players, saying, “I just had to remind these guys of who they are and what they had accomplished to get here.”

John Lester, pitcher, commented, “We got it done. We got it done. It doesn’t matter how!”

His words reminded me of comments made by John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, after winning the 2012 Super Bowl. At the end of a hard-fought game, he admitted it wasn’t pretty or perfect, but they got it done.

As a mental health occupational therapist facilitating weekly group sessions to enhance coping strategies for military veterans, I like using examples from sports to illustrate how perseverance can turn into success.

One of my favorite stories involves a British boxer named Danny Williams, who knocked out his opponent despite dislocating his own shoulder during the fight. In a YouTube video, Williams can be seen winning through pain and persistence.

Lessons I learned as a girl watching sports with my brother and deceased father resonate when I see sporting events with my children and husband. Themes of: “It wasn’t easy; but it was worth it” and “It’s not over ‘til it’s over” now help me remember that if I can keep going, I can win.

Theo Epstein’s words to Cubs fans in fall 2011 also help. He reportedly said: “I have a plan (for success), but we’re going to have to be patient.”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.