Joey was my athlete nemesis growing up.
One summer, my baseball coach decided to put me in as a pitcher. He gave me plenty of notice – a week or so – and I spent some time with my dad and a friend of his learning how to pitch. I still remember the lessons. Your foot has to stay in touch with the rubber. Don’t worry about speed; just get the ball over the plate.
I remember being calm the day of my pitching debut. The first two innings were rather uneventful. Then Joey came to bat. And my 1-1 pitch pinged wonderfully off the sweet spot of his bat and flew over the fence for a legitimate home run. If you’ve ever seen or played baseball played by elementary kids, you know all home runs are of the inside-the-park variety.
Not Joey’s with the swing of George Brett and the trot of Bo Jackson.
A few years later, as a chubby soccer player, our winless team took a 3-1 lead into halftime when my coach decided to put me in as goalie. Two goals later, I stopped the go ahead goal but couldn’t corral the rebound. Guess who booted in the game winner?
Joey with the golden boot of Pele and the fist-pump of Alexi Lalas.
Joey went on to lead his high school soccer team to a state championship, got signed with Tennessee and kicked extra points for all of Payton Manning’s touchdowns and is now an entrepreneur and CEO of JOEYS, a shoe-company that gives a pair of cleats to a needy child in remote parts of the world when a pair is purchased by wanna-be athletes like me for the city league.
This is what I tell myself to deaden the pain.
What I clearly remember are the words both my parents said after both of these games. They put the heart that Joey ripped out of my chest back into place by telling me how proud they were of me. What healing words.
If you’re like me with kids who are now entering into their young athletic careers (or music or art careers), let me encourage you to go read Tim Elmore’s wonderful article “What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform”.
Get ready now because no doubt if you’re kid isn’t a Joey, he or she will certainly face him soon. And now is the time to lay the foundation of a secure love that will heal their hearts when they get knocked out of the park.