Gender & sports: Female athletes

Gender & sports: Female athletes

IN THIS ISSUE:  
“THE GENDER GAP – MALES & FEMALES IN SPORTS” Back in prehistoric times, when the Neanderthals roamed the earth and the land was not troubled by deep waves of thought, only males competed in sports. As was widely accepted as fact, the female of the species was much too frail and fragile to be able to physically tolerate such “manly” endeavors as running, jumping, throwing and competing. As a consequence, little girls and young women were forced to dress in nothing but pink and relegated to such strenuous activities as flower picking, knitting, cooking and cheering for their manly counterparts during big sporting events. Heaven forbid if you were a young woman back then and you had the evil impulses to actually want to participate in sports. The only sane explanation for such bizarre and immoral urges was that you had to be a possessed by the devil or you were just simply a freak of nature.  With the advent of Title IX things began to get a little more civilized in this country and the female athlete as an acceptable member of the human athletic race began to take shape out of the primordial ooze of male dominated ignorance. While the gender gap seems to be slowly closing, there are still some subtle and not-so-subtle inequities. All in all, however, things are certainly a whole lot better for the female athlete today than yesteryear. In this installment of The Mental Toughness Newsletter we will explore the female athlete in sport and some gender related issues.    

ATHLETE’S LOCKER - “You go girl!”
PARENT’S CORNER - “Build strong, confident daughters ”
COACH’S OFFICE – “Effectively coaching young woman”
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES- “The magic bat”



ATHLETE’S LOCKER

 “You go girl!”

A few years ago Olympic gold medal swimmer Jenny Thompson posed naked from the waist up for Sports Illustrated with her back to the camera and a tough, proud expression on her face as she flexed her well muscled body. The photo offended many people. Some thought it was overly sexual. A few thought women shouldn’t be seen “flaunting it” like that. Others were grossed out by Jenny’s muscles and felt that she was unfeminine to the point of being almost mannish. I think most people completely missed the point. When I first saw the photo I thought, YOU GO GIRL! Here’s an athletic young woman who was proud of who she was and the level of excellence that she had achieved, totally separate from how physically “attractive” she was in the traditional, near sighted sense of the word. She was attractive all right! But what was truly attractive about Jenny was that she was being portrayed as a winner, a physically strong, confident, accomplished female in the world, not as some mindless, dimwitted sex object, the way women are all too often portrayed.       

In that picture Jenny Thompson represented the best of what sports has to offer to young women today and I’m NOT referring to an opportunity to bare it all in front of a national audience! I am, instead referring to a chance to develop a healthy self-image and to build a solid sense of self-esteem and self-confidence that is wonderfully separate from how “pretty” you may be to the opposite sex. So if you’re a female athlete reading this, and you truly want to make a mark on your world, then listen up!

As a young woman growing up in today’s society you have your work cut out for you. You live in a world that has its values screwed up. You live in a culture that wants to put you in a neat little box and wrap you up with cute, frilly pink ribbons. You live in a society that wants to steal your true identity and self-esteem, and, in exchange, sell you something shallow and worthless that it masquerades as being quite valuable. Society would like you to buy the bologna that your true worth as a young woman is almost entirely based on your sexuality, physical attractiveness, popularity with the “in” group, the clothes you wear and how “nice” you are. I sure hope you don’t buy this garbage because it’s particularly stinky!

As you go from preadolescence into adolescence, the pressure to fit in and be “cool” increases tremendously. There are the latest styles to keep up with, the social groups you think you’d like to be a part of and accepted by, the task of trying to become more independent from your parents, and let’s not forget your sexuality! You have to try to make yourself attractive so that the opposite sex will pay enough attention to you. On top of all of this, add that little annoying, distracting job you have of being a competent student, i.e. having to do homework and get decent grades. (“Oh yeah, I remember now! I’m actually in school for a reason.”)   

Here’s the sad part for me. Too many talented, bright young women are succumbing to this pressure and giving up who they are in exchange for acceptance and popularity. They want to fit in so badly that they let their grades slide because they think it’s just not cool to be smart. They don’t speak up in class for the same reason, not wanting to be seen as a nerd or geek. They keep their mouths shut when guys or other young women say wickedly mean, stupid and hurtful things to other kids because they just don’t want to rock the boat and risk falling out of favor themselves with the popular in-group. They even stop trying as hard athletically because they don’t want others to think that maybe they’re too competitive or “stuck up,” as if there was something wrong with being a strong, confident, young woman.


This “deal with the devil,” where you give up who you are and what you can do so others will like you or think you’re “cool” is nowhere more visible than in your interactions with the opposite sex. Maybe guys might be put off if you’re too smart. Perhaps a bright, aggressive young woman might intimidate the guys. Maybe a physically strong, athletically talented female will threaten them. So what do you end up doing to be attractive? You pretend to be stupid, laugh at the guys dimwitted and immature behavior as if it’s cute, ignore your instincts that tell you shouldn’t be doing any of this, On the playing field you censor yourself, embrace mediocrity, stop trying so hard in training or flat out quit the sport. Why? So some hormone driven, selfish little boy might take an interest in you? Please!  Have some self-respect!

A question for you: Would you really want to be friends with guys or other young women who like you better when you act like someone else, less smart, less aggressive and less talented than you really are? What does it say about your friends or boyfriend if they are threatened when you think for yourself and act smart, competent, and high achieving? NOT MUCH!

More than ever before it is time for you to feel good about yourself. It is time for you to celebrate your strengths and talents. It is time for you to express yourself verbally, intellectually and athletically. Don’t you dare settle for mediocrity! Don’t you dare give up who you are and what you can do to be popular and fit in! Fitting in is all about being one of the masses. It’s about being mediocre and underachieving! Underachievers always fit in. They never stand out where and when it really counts! Don’t do this to yourself! Don’t sell out! Don’t settle for average. Stand up and dare to be different! People who excel are willing to take the necessary risks and aren’t worried if in the process they end up standing alone. Dare to be yourself. Dare to pursue excellence in every part of your life. Have the courage to speak up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong. But above all, use your sports, academics and everything you do to pursue personal excellence.

Forget what everyone else around you is telling you about being attractive. Forget the crap that they feed you on TV and in magazines about you needing to have the perfect body to be happy and successful! There is no perfect body unless you think that being anorexic thin and weak is beautiful. The perfect body is a myth that was created on Madison Avenue to sell cars, clothes, soft drinks, food and your soul! The only real perfect body is your own, just the way it is. So get your butt in the weight room and build yourself up. Become a physically strong, confident young woman. Don’t buy into this garbage that if you develop muscles, then you will be some kind of hideous, unattractive freak. This is like saying that if you have any kind of strength be it physical or mental, that you will turn-off the opposite sex. Anyone who responds to you by being turned off by your strengths isn’t worth associating with in the first place. You don’t have to apologize for your talents. You don’t have to apologize for your dreams. You don’t ever have to apologize for who you are! Be a winner and be proud of it. Build your muscles and once you develop them, be sure to flex them just like Jenny Thompson! Embrace your sport and allow yourself to feel good about your accomplishments. Don’t back down from your goals and dreams for anyone.          

As a female athlete competing in today’s arena you are a very special breed. You are a pioneer, a groundbreaker, a leader. You buck the trends and go against the status quo. You are making a statement that it is important for young women to be physically and mentally strong, aggressive, competitive and high achieving. Don’t just whisper this message to the masses. Shout it out, proudly! You go girl!

  

PARENT’S CORNER


“Build strong, confident daughters”  


My youngest daughter Julee just turned 16 last month and with this coming of age came the much anticipated, “real” driving lessons. No longer were we looking for empty parking lots with their lonely curbs for Julee to terrorize. Now was the big time! We were doing it all around town. Julee drove and I sat on the passenger’s side doing everything in my power to make sure that she and I were not seriously traumatized for life by this adolescent rite of passage. Despite the prerequisite close calls, she’s been doing quite well lately, that is, up until an incident early last week.    

We were driving to our local athletic club to shoot hoops, she behind the wheel and me being hyper vigilant right next to her, monitoring every gauge in the car as well as every movement around the car within a radius of slightly under 3 miles. I knew the exact location of every squirrel, bird, bike rider, pedestrian and 4-legged family pet and had precisely calculated how much time we had before impact should they make a sudden decision to intercept our vehicle which, I’d like to point out was traveling approximately 1.46 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.    

It was at this point that Julee asked if the car behind us was driving a bit too close. When I looked in the side view mirror I noticed that a red SUV was virtually in our backseat. Maybe that’s why I began seeing RED! When Julee didn’t immediately pull over (this was a no passing zone in a fairly residential part of town where there was no place to pull over), the SUV flashed his brights and then left them on. As he did so my anger began to rise. Julee complained that she was having trouble seeing. (It was right before dusk) He continued to stay close behind her with his high beams on as we pulled over to the left lane to take a left into the street that fed the athletic club. Interesting enough, the SUV pulled over with us. As we waited to turn he began to honk his horn at Julee and I noticed that I was being flooded with white-hot anger and vividly violent fantasies.   

Being the father of two girls, I’ve long understood the protective instinct a parent feels when his child is being threatened in any way. On rare occasions through their childhood this protective instinct has been activated, but nothing to the degree that I was experiencing now. As we turned into the winding, residential access road leading to the club, the SUV honked again from our back seat and tried to pass us around a solid, double yellow line. Because a car was coming in the opposite direction, he was forced to pull back behind us. He continued to honk and tailgate. Even as I recall this incident, I can still feel the protective anger once again bubbling up inside of me. My anger violated all my black belt karate training, (“when you pick up your fists you must drop your anger. When your anger rises you must drop your fists.”).

When Julee put on her signal to take a left into the club, so did the SUV! I didn’t get it. This was clearly not someone we knew who was trying to stop us to relay something important. Nor had Julee done something so terrible that it would have warranted this guy going out of his way to “share” his unhappiness with us. Was there some kind of emergency? Where was the fire? I was momentarily confused. What was really going on here? However, when he pulled over and parked as far away from us as possible and then got out of the car with his gym bag, I realized that he was also coming to the club to work out. Julee, going the speed limit, had somehow cost him valuable seconds! My protective instincts as well as my emotions took over. Truth be told, something inside of me snapped. I was pissed! I marched over to him and took my time letting him know exactly what I thought of him and his driving. I informed him that he had terrorized my daughter who had been driving all of three weeks. I was very much in his face using colorful words and phrases with that you may have heard before. I am embarrassed to tell you that I was just a wee bit out of control. In fact, I was shaking with anger. I must also confess that as I look back on this incident I handled it very poorly. This was one of the first things that I told Julee.


That night I couldn’t stop thinking or feeling. Why was I so ripped? Most of the intensity in my reaction came from the protective feelings that I had had as a father. I’m sure some also came from my deep dark past which I will not burden you with now. As parents, we want our daughters (and sons) to be safe. We want to insure that they stay safe. Unfortunately we can’t always guarantee this. In fact, as they mature, we have to put a lid on our own insecurities and begin to allow them the freedom to go out into the world and fend for themselves. The hard part is that they have to learn to do this without having us there all the time as guides. I don’t have to tell you that this parental letting go process is much easier said than done. Letting go is unbelievably evocative and painful. How can we ever be sure that they will indeed be safe?             

While there are never any guarantees, there are specific things that you can do with your daughter as she develops which will help her better take care of herself in the world. Teach her! Empower her! Help her to become a strong, free-thinking and independent young woman! Teach her to become self-reliant in a healthy way. However, as you do this be careful to avoid the one major trap that loving parents all too often stumble into, the trap of being over-protective.

If you keep your daughter too safe, if you are too restrictive or too overprotective, if you never let her venture out on her own because you let your own fears cloud your parenting judgment, then you inadvertently teach her two rather unfortunate, and near paralyzing lessons. First, the world is a very dangerous place; so dangerous in fact that she needs constant protection. Second, and a more debilitating lesson to teach, in your mind she is not capable of managing by herself. Whether you like it or not, and despite the realities of how dangerous the world really is, your daughter must eventually learn to become self-reliant. Being over-protective robs her of the self-confidence that she needs in order to believe that she can take care of herself.

Obviously, teaching your daughter to be strong, independent and self-reliant are not lessons that you teach overnight. You don’t just throw your daughter in over her head and expect that she’ll start swimming just fine. Instead, you must gradually let go of your control and gradually increase the amount of responsibility that you give to her.

In almost every interaction that you have with your daughter, you have an opportunity to do this, to teach them about becoming a strong, competent, confident individual in the world. You can’t bring a child up in your house without being confronted with countless teaching moments, many times a day. How you handle these teaching moments will heavily determine what your daughter learns about herself and, ultimately how she ends up feeling in her world. Far too many parents ignore or completely miss these teaching opportunities because they are too preoccupied with their own lives to stop, look and listen to their child. Others are way off base with the lessons that they teach because they are too worried, fearful and overprotective. Still others don’t even realize that in every interaction you have with your daughter you are always teaching her something. The big question is, do you know exactly what you are teaching her? Whether the overt lessons seem to revolve around chores, homework, communication, relationships, sex, power, dating, drugs and alcohol, or friends doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have an awareness of the underlying lessons that are being taught, lessons that directly impact upon your daughter’s competence, self-image, self-esteem, independence and self-respect.

As a mother, you want to provide your daughter with a model for being a strong, confident, freethinking and independent woman in the world. To actually do this you must be willing to take a hard look at your own feelings of competence and power as a woman. You also have to closely examine how you are in relation to your spouse or partner. Are you assertive? Do you speak up to protect yourself when necessary? Do you allow others to take advantage of, or abuse you? Do you take appropriate risks? Do you stretch your “envelope” so-to-speak? What kind of a teacher are you?        

As a father of a daughter in a male dominated society, your role with your daughter is absolutely critical. First of all, from day one you teach your daughter about male-female interactions in the manner that you treat and interact with your wife. If you are regularly dismissive of, or demeaning towards your daughter’s mother you are teaching your little girl that her own value as a soon-to-be young woman in the world is quite low too. You may vehemently argue the point as you read this, but don’t kid yourself. I don’t care how loving you may be towards your daughter. If you are openly abusive to your spouse, your daughter is getting a very clear, albeit covert message about her own self-worth in the world of men and relationships. Worse yet, she is also learning from dad what kind of future partner she deserves!

To help your little girl grow up with power in the world, you as a dad have to empower her. Provide her with opportunities to excel in academics, sports and other extracurricular activities and when she does, underline her successes. Get in the habit of catching her doing things right. Reinforce by celebrating those times and situations when your little girl acts powerfully and independently. Let her know very clearly that you value these behaviors and her accomplishments. If she becomes actively involved in sports, be there for her with support, encouragement and love. Encourage her to compete, to be appropriately aggressive, to dream big and then go for it! Let your daughter know in as many different ways that many times “the best man for the job” is a woman! Help her see that every part of who she is, her strength, willfulness, aggressiveness, competitiveness, caring, intelligence and physical presentation is appealing to and valued by you.  

Remember, you can do a better job of keeping your daughter safe by empowering her and letting her know that you believe that she is developing into a capable, strong and competent young woman. You don’t have to take it on yourself to forever be the source of her protection and safety. Perhaps that’s the lesson I should have imparted to Julee. Maybe I should have encouraged her to handle that incident with me by her side keeping my big mouth shut. No doubt she probably would have done a whole lot better job than I did!        

COACH’S OFFICE

“Effectively coaching young woman.”

Do you coach young women? Are you any good at it? How do you know? Ever ask the athletes on your squad? All too often male and sometimes even female coaches approach their job with young women and attempt to coach them the very same way that they would coach males. This is a BIG MISTAKE! A BIG, PERFORMANCE-LIMITING MISTAKE!!!

Now before you go running off screaming that Dr. G is full of it, let me explain. What I am talking about here has absolutely nothing to do with what girls are physically and athletically capable of doing. If you believe that the female athlete is an inferior athlete, then you are living in the 50’s and have no business coaching young women. As far as I’m concerned, with the right approach and attitude, you can train girls to become skillful, aggressive, confident winners. This is NOT an equality discussion! Instead the issue is simply about understanding that men and women are different animals and your success as a coach with young woman depends upon your understanding of some key differences between the two genders.

First of all, you need to understand that little boys are naturally socialized to be loud, aggressive, competitive and dominant. They are taught to ignore their softer feelings/emotions and be “strong”, rejecting anything “female.” As a consequence, boys do quite well dominating and competing aggressively but not so well in being cooperative, team oriented, socially related and unselfish. It’s in these areas that little boys need to be coached.

Little girls, on the other hand are socialized to be soft-spoken, cooperative, team oriented, and unselfish to a fault. They are taught to keep a low profile and not bring attention to themselves. The male traits of competitiveness, aggression, selfishness and dominance are negatively coded in them. That is, little girls are taught to reject these male qualities as unsuitable for use. In fact, most young women begin to feel uncomfortable when they start exhibiting these traits. As a coach of young women, having this information is absolutely critical. It means that you can’t go into a group of young women and just expect them to naturally respond to you like your last guy’s team did. Instead, you have to go out of your way to actively teach your female athletes that it is actually ok to be aggressive and competitive. You have to encourage them to take risks and to stand out. This is not an easy task to accomplish. Why? Besides the fact that it goes against everything female that they have been taught growing up, it creates an intense internal battle for them. Let me explain.

Most female athletes have to struggle at one time or another with a seemingly no-win internal conflict between being the best and being liked. The serious athlete wants to excel and go as far as possible. She wants to outrun the competition and stand alone. Unfortunately this urge to be the best comes in direct conflict with another important need of the female athlete: to be socially accepted. To be the best you must train harder and longer than everyone else. You must go hard against your friends. You must be willing to out-compete your teammates. However, when you strive for excellence in this way you also do a serious of job of rocking the social boat and making other young women around you very uncomfortable. They will begin to talk about you. They will become unhappy and angry with you. You will make some jealous. As a consequence, they will “share” their unhappiness with you by ostracizing you. You are now in a no win position. Striving for excellence alienates you, yet to be accepted, you must give up your efforts and desires to be the best. In this “deal” when you embrace social acceptance, you must also embrace mediocrity.

This dilemma highlights the power of relationships in the female athlete’s life. Their relationship with you as the coach is especially critical to their happiness, coach-ability and peak performance. As a coach of young women you must understand that it’s relationships that primarily motivate young women. In this way girls are very different than boys. Boys are far more task oriented. There can be problems in your relationship with them and most often they won’t get too distracted by them. Not so with young women. Young women “speak” the relationship language. What does this mean? As a coach they listen much less to what you have to say and far more to how you say it and the impact that your message has on their perception of the relationship that they have with you. Say the wrong things in a way that they perceive violates or jeopardizes their relationship with you and they won’t hear one word content-wise of your message. They will instead be too distracted trying to figure out why it is you don’t like them or what they did wrong to make you so upset with them, (i.e. relationship problems).

Too many coaches misinterpret this female tendency of being unable to “handle” a coach’s yelling or anger as a general lack of toughness. They reason that if the female athlete were truly “stronger” like her male counterpart, then she wouldn’t be bothered by the coach “losing it” a little. Interesting argument but one that is totally disconnected from how the female athlete is “hard-wired.” In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that male coaches consistently make with their female squads is to “get in their faces,” yelling and screaming at them. You will NOT motivate young women doing this! You will NOT inspire them to learn from you and reach new performance heights! You will, instead, shut them down, kill their self-confidence and distract them from the important task at hand. If you have an important message that you need to share with your athletes, if you have some strong negative feelings that you think you need to feed back to them, then you had better make a point of sitting on your intensity and going through the relationship to effectively communicate to them.      

To get the female athlete to listen you must convey that you genuinely care about her and her well being, beyond her value as an athlete on the playing field. If you are unable to do this, you will lose her. If you communicate that you are only interested in her talent and ability, and what she can do for you, then you will ultimately be ineffective with this athlete and team. Far too many coaches pay more attention to the best athletes and at the expense of the less skilled ones. Similarly these same coaches will ignore the better athlete if she suddenly gets injured and now can’t perform. Young women interpret this as a serious violation of their relationship with you and will shut down.

To be effective you must be open and direct with young women. You must treat them with respect and listen to their concerns. You must go out of your way to provide them with positive feedback, when appropriate. Know that many female athletes tend towards being hypercritical of themselves. They tend to minimize their strengths and over exaggerate their weaknesses. Keep this in mind when you’re offering negative feedback. Keep your criticism clear, concise and specific. When you’re done saying your piece, be sure to check out whether your athlete got the message that you wanted sent.

In addition, help your female athletes feel good about being competitive and pursuing excellence. Teach them on a daily basis that striving for excellence is not just OK, but desirable. Create a safe environment for your women to be able to feel comfortable doing this. Do not allow scapegoating, cliques or petty jealousies to derail your women from pursuing excellence. Do not allow your high achievers to be alienated. Be prepared to consistently set and enforce limits around this kind of disruptive behavior. Your job is to help your athletes minimize the “best” vs. “likeable” conflict so that it becomes a non-issue. To do this, teach your female athletes to adopt a win-win mentality. That is, when one teammate gets better and excels, everyone stands to benefit from her success, rather than being diminished by it.

Remember, regardless of the sex of your athletes, the quality of the relationship that you develop with your athletes will ultimately determine how successful and effective you are as a coach. Learn to talk the “relationship” language now and it will pay off huge dividends for you later.

DR. G’S TEACHING TALES

The Magic Bat

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try. — Beverly Sills

Harry is every coach's dream kid: He shows up for every practice early, stays late and is enthusiastic. Harry is also every coach's nightmare: He has neither the instinct nor the physical talent for the game.I stepped in as a stand-in coach for my son's Little League team when the regular coach got married. Somehow he thought a honeymoon took precedence over next Tuesday's game. How can you blame him? Our team hadn't won in more than two years.As I accepted the fill-in spot, I promised myself that I would show no disappointment if we lost. That was the least I could do. The best I could do was give a good heart to the effort.I met Harry at the first practice. A small, thin, awkward kid his best throw was about five feet, which made the choice of fielding position difficult. And he was scared. Every time he came to bat, he would glance at the pitcher, lean the bat on his shoulder, close his eyes and wait until the misery of three pitches was over. Then he'd trudge back to the dugout. It was painful to watch.I met Harry before Tuesday's game, took him aside and worked with him on keeping his eyes open. He tried, but it's tough to overcome the habit of fear. We were about to play a team that had beat us 22-1 the last time. It didn't seem a fortunate moment for a breakthrough. Then I thought, Why not?I went to the dugout, got a different bat and returned to our practice area. "Harry," I said, "I want you to use this bat. It's the one for you. It's a magic bat. All you have to do is swing and it will hit the ball."Harry seemed skeptical, but he said he would try. I hoped I wasn't complicating an already tough problem for Harry, but I wanted to try to help.Our team was trailing from the first inning. No surprise in that, but we had some loyal parents in the stands to give constant encouragement to the kids.On Harry's first at bat, I noticed he wasn't using his special bat, but I didn't step in. He struck out, as usual, and I decided to let it ride.We were able to score from time to time. In the last inning, we were behind by only three runs. I was thinking about a "respectable outcome" speech to give the kids while packing up the gear. As the home team, we were last up. We alternated for five batters between singles with players safely on base and strikeouts. We had bases loaded and two outs. Only then did I notice that Harry was our last chance.Surveying the field from my spot by first base, I saw the left fielder sprawl on the grass as Harry came from the dugout. He  obviously expected no action.The right fielder was bothering some butterfly that was flitting about. The shortstop had moved well in, I suppose anticipating the possibility of a miraculous bunt. Clearly, the opposing players were already tasting the double-scoop ice cream cones they would go for after the victory.Harry limped up to the batter's box. I noticed he had his usual bat. I called a time out, ran up to him and whispered, "Harry, this is the time for the magic bat. Give it a try. Just keep your eyes open and swing."He looked at me in disbelief, but he said he'd try. He walked off for the special bat as I trotted back to first base.First pitch, strike one. Harry didn't swing, but he kept his eyes open. I pumped my fist and gave it a little swing, encouraging him to swing. He smiled, got into his awkward stance and waited. He swung, eyes open, but missed. Strike two. That was the first real swing Harry had ever taken. Who cared if we won the game? I considered Harry a winner already.The other coach yelled to his pitcher, "Fire one past him and end this thing!" I grimaced.The pitcher threw a straight fastball and Harry swung. The magic bat did its trick. It found the ball, which flew over the shortstop's head.Pandemonium erupted in the stands, in the dugouts, on the bases. I was cheering Harry to run to first as fast as he could. It seemed like an eternity. The left fielder called to the center fielder to get it. "You're closer!I kept cheering the runners. We had one in at home and three guys pouring it on from first to second, second to third, third to home. The second baseman yelled for the center fielder to get the ball to him. Excitedly, he obeyed, but the ball skipped across the grass and passed by the second baseman toward the right-field line. My job as coach was simple at this point. "Run, guys, run," I yelled.Another guy scored. By this time, the entire team had joined the cheering, "Go, Harry, go Harry!" This was surely the longest distance Harry had ever run. He was panting as he headed for third and another guy crossed home. The right fielder's throw was critical, and it was pretty good, but the third baseman muffed it. The ball scooted past him out of play. The rule: one base on an overthrow that goes out of play. Harry, exhausted, kept the push on as best he could.About then, the first cry of a Grand Slam!" hit the air. Everyone joined in. When Harry reached home plate, about to collapse, his teammates lifted him as high as they could and chanted, "Harry, Harry, Harry!"I ran over to the team to hug the proudest kid in America. Tears streaming, Harry looked up at me and said, "The bat, Coach, the bat."I smiled and said, "No, Harry. It was you who hit the ball, not the bat."David Meanor, Submitted by Don "Ollie" OlivettAs appeared in Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan's Soul.

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