Grace
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Grace

I had a plan for a blog post using this photo.

I told Kevin on the way up to Nashville for this years ABCA Annual Convention that I needed to make sure I got a good photo of the main stage area.

I was going to write something along the lines of –

Over 8500 coaches gathered under one roof to grow their knowledge of the game this past week.

All of them come from different backgrounds. They coach at different schools. Different divisions. And each one coaches using different methods.

Some of them Coach high school ball.

Some coach college. JUCO. NAIA. D1.

Some coach in affiliated ball.

Some of them coach little league ball.

Travel ball. Own or run academies.

But all of them have the same thing in common. They love the game enough to pass it down.

And I was going to go on to talk about the different speakers and the different topics that I took notes on.

The main focuses. The good takeaways. And encourage others who are coaches at any capacity to join the ABCA and attend the convention.

Take your spouses.

Experience the atmosphere.

But then life happened.

We went to the ER.

We were told about the mass.

And suddenly nothing about the ABCA mattered to me anymore. My focus shifted as quickly as game momentum can.

I walked the trade show this year a total of an hour, if that. Four days. One hour.

The trade show is my favorite part of the Annual Convention. Every other time going I’ve easily spent hours walking the aisles and checking out all of the latest and greatest gear, technology and programs.

Kevin and I usually become intrigued by some.

We admittedly laugh at others.

I mean, some of the “stuff” out there is just plain silly.

But this year as I walked it I couldn’t focus on any of it. They didn’t have answers to the questions that began swirling in my mind as I sat on that doctors stool next to that hospital bed earlier that morning.

As I sat in this room listening to the speaker for this session I had the same issue. I couldn’t follow.

His slide show didn’t cover the pancreas or anything remotely related to it.

That blog post I had planned and started will have to wait.

Because this one is more important.

My original plan was to talk about what the coaches learned. What it’s like to be in a place FULL of baseball coaches.

The “coach” uniform everywhere.

Hats. Thousands of hats. Backpacks. Team logos. Some dressed in khakis and polos while others are dressed in joggers and hoodies.

The sounds of familiar conversations of friends catching up with former teammates, former staff mates or fellow coaches they don’t get to see all the time but they share history with.

The hand shakes.

The laughs.

The strategizing.

The chalk talk.

When I look at this photo I still see all of that.

But I see another layer beneath it.

I see the not so put together parts of them.

I see a room full of coaches who are engaged in what the speakers are teaching, despite what they’re dealing with at home.

Unlike myself.

Who was not engaged.

At all.

Kevin and I sat in this room with the weight of a new found mass on his pancreas.

We sat there with the thoughts of our kids and how we talk to them about it.

With the unknowns of what this thing is. Who we seek diagnosis from. What doctors to use because we don’t see gastroenterologists on the regular. We don’t even know any back home.

We sat there physically together but we sat there mentally worlds apart.

He took notes.

I made to do lists.

He mapped out new drills.

I contacted prayer warriors.

I wonder how many in this photo did the same. Stayed focused or bounced back and forth between at home things and in this moment things.

I wonder how many of them have something similar on their plate.

Maybe it’s not a medical mountain.

Maybe their schools budget is getting cut and they’ve got to figure out how to keep providing quality training to their players with smaller funds for new equipment. Needed equipment.

Maybe their own parents are aging and they’ve got to take on the role of care taker in addition to their coaching duties.

Maybe their kids are struggling in school. Or becoming teenagers with attitudes which is exhausting. Or not meeting the academic standards they need to. Or going to therapies to learn how to talk like ours has.

Maybe their marriage is going through a valley or hardship; struggling with the demands that being a coach puts on a family.

Maybe they’ve got a player or three who are absolute pains in the rear. It happens. Players who are making their job 10x harder than it needs to be but because they love them, they’re determined to achieve a breakthrough and watch that kid go from menace to teammate.

Maybe they just accepted a new position at a new school and feel like they have something to prove.

Or maybe they’re ready for the next move in their career and are waiting to hear back from interviews. Planning who they want to bring with them and how they move their family.

I could go on.

I doubt I’d ever name them all.

But I do know this.

They still did what Kevin did.

Despite walking the halls of that convention center with more than the weight of their backpacks on their shoulders, they showed up.

They’re coaches.

The demands are high no matter what level dugout they stand in.

Sure, some have bigger responsibilities than others but every one of them is responsible for shaping the life of the players they lead.

In addition to the multitude of things they need to do as spouses, parents, children, siblings, employees, owners and managers.

Yet still, they chart.

They take notes.

They learn new tricks of the trade.

They network to better their players opportunities.

They do their job.

I think sometimes we forget about the chains life places on others around us. They aren’t always visible.

We forget that underneath the title, the work clothes, the jersey – we’re all human.

The marathon our neighbor is running may look different than the sprint we are. But we’re all carrying a load of something. We’re all facing challenges.

The competition isn’t just on the field for these coaches. The challenge isn’t just in the stands for you.

So when I look at this picture and I think about the words I planned to say I’m reminded of just one.

A simple word.

But a deeper concept.

Grace.

I’m reminded of the grace my family needs in these coming days. Because heaven knows, we will fall short.

Coach will forget things. He will have to rebook, cancel or move practices and lessons around because of things we’re facing at the moment.

And I hope grace is freely given.

Just like I hope it’s extended for the coaches in this photo. And the people reading this post.

Every one of the men and women who attended this years conference headed home with more knowledge, more gear and excitement for their upcoming seasons.

And they all stepped off planes or parked cars in some hard realities they got to escape from for a few days. Realities they must face head on now.

They will mess up this season.

They will forget things.

They will make bad calls.

They will make some people angry.

Probably get pushed around some.

And they will battle their own demons silently.

Like we did in this room.

They will need grace.

Because it’s in those moments of grace that they will be able to make the wrong things right.

They’ll be able to get organized and gain clarity of mind so they can remember their goals and purpose. And then execute them well.

They will be able to remain focused and strategically – boldly – make the right calls. The calls that win games. Win championships.

They will be able to lead toes instead of step on them.

They will be able to defend their coaching approaches, staff and players with integrity and do the right thing in the hard moments that will undoubtedly come.

They will find strength to overcome the challenges they’re facing between the chalk lines and outside of them.

But most of all, when they’re given room to be the coach their team needs, they’ll also be able [and probably more willing] to give grace in return.

Give grace to the coaches they coach with.

To the administration they answer to.

To the parents who entrust them.

To the players who compete for them.

& no matter what side of the field you’re on, we could all use some of that.