I have always loved this time of year. No matter what religion you are, this time of year is no doubt special to you.
Whether it’s the music, the decorations or the time off from school, discover what the holiday season has in common with softball.
Some people love this time of year for the decorations and Christmas carols. Others like it for the presents or time off from school, but I have always liked it for a different reason. To me, this time of year is so great because of the way it changes people.
When I was growing up our family wasn’t big into holiday decorations. I don’t know if it had anything to do with us having 5 kids within 8 years in age which no doubt caused my parents to worry constantly about us knocking something over and smashing it beyond recognition. Or maybe it was just the fact that my parents weren’t really huge decorators. Sure, we’d have the tree with the lights and bulbs (two boxes, that my Mom still uses today), the string of lights on the house , but it always seemed to be just a string of lights or a box of bulbs, nothing too crazy.
But, my Mom was an artist and what we did have all over were Christmas things we’d all made. I can still remember this awesome Santa and reindeer thing my Mom made out of egg crates that we’d put on the table in our front hall, that my Mom still puts out to this day. While it wasn’t big in size, or flashy in its style, I always thought it was awesome – not only because my Mom made it, but because it was so clever and took so much creativity. We all had (and still use) homemade socks that we’d thumbtack to the fireplace. They were huge and colorful, and homemade. Something about them still makes me smile. They were unique – nobody had any like them so somehow, we were special. We also had a nativity set that shared space on the front table with Mom’s egg-crate Santa thing. I know a nativity set isn’t anything special, but eventually ours was. It was small in size, and over the years various pieces (usually animals) would get lost or broken or both. So our nativity set evolved into a half-religious, half-doctor-Doolittle type affair. Mom added a red plastic donkey one year, and a blue plastic lion the next. Even though lions aren’t part of the nativity we grew up knowing that all kinds of animals of different sizes and colors had been part of the nativity scene. Mom still uses that same nativity set today, and what strikes me the most about it was how Mom never lost her temper if we accidently broke or lost something, she simply replaced it with a colorful stand-in.
But the absolute coolest decorations we had growing up were the handmade Santa heads. Again it was Mom behind this one. Sitting on the mantle right above each of our socks was a red coned, white bearded Santa head with your name written out on his beard. The whole thing was made out of construction paper (as were most things in our house) but that’s how you knew which sock was yours. Of course with 5 kids and tons of friends, we always had stragglers over for Christmas and anybody who came to our house for Christmas always got their own sock and a Santa’s head with their name on it. As our family has grown over the years the mantle has become quite crowded, but it has always been the best way of helping someone feel welcome by giving them their very own sock and having their own special Santa with their name on it!
So I guess we did actually decorate, we just did it in different ways than most people. And that gets me back to the title of this article – what do Softball and Christmas have in common?
- It’s About the Family/Team – Both the Holiday season and softball are about a very close group of people you care about. It’s your family when it comes to the holidays, and it’s your team when it comes to softball. We spend a ton of time around both of these groups but that doesn’t mean we are good at letting them know we care about them. The Christmas season kind of forces us to show the people around us that we care about them, that we’re glad they’re in our life, and how much they mean to us. Christmas is NOT about getting – the Christmas season is all about GIVING. If you want to help yourself feel fantastic then make a list of the people in your life that really mean a lot to you. They can be your parents, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your coaches, your teammates and/or your friends – and do something special for all of them. You don’t have to spend money on them if you don’t have any. Simply write them a note telling them how much they mean to you, or bake them some cookies, or take them to lunch, or get them a gift card to their favorite store (maybe a Softball Excellence gift certificate?). It REALLY is the thought and effort that makes them feel special, and not the size of the gift. Remember my story about our house growing up? I still remember all the silly handmade stuff we used as decorations and not the fancy stuff we bought from stores. You ARE Special, and so are the people that matter to you in your life. So let them know that by doing something special for them!
- Take Action for Others – I know it’s tough being a young softball player and trying to live up to your own standards as well as those of your parents and coaches. That’s a lot of pressure throughout the year. So let the holidays be the time you turn the tables. Instead of spending all your energy worrying about yourself, spend your efforts on others. Take action for others. Give your teammates little gifts that are special to each of them. Again, they don’t have to be big or expensive; they just have to be sincere. Teams are built off the field as much as they are on the field. Use the holiday season to help strengthen your team, and, to strengthen yourself as a teammate. Treat your teammates the way you wish they would treat you. Show concern for them, take action for them and show them thanks. No matter what you might think about them, every single one of your teammates really does care. They want to be a good player, person and teammate so give them a holiday boost!
- Have Your Traditions – Families have traditions (ours were plastic donkeys in the nativity set and paper Santa heads on the mantle) and all great teams have traditions too. Celebrate the traditions your family has, and work to celebrate traditions your team has. Maybe start a Team Holiday party and do some fun, weird games that everyone will love. Things like that not only help everyone relax, but also bring everyone together. Great teams are groups of people who put the group ahead of themselves and NOT a group of people who put themselves ahead of the group! Take a lesson from my Mom and get out the colored construction paper and start making holiday softball Santa heads at your team holiday party!
- Be Grateful – And finally, the biggest thing to me that softball and the holidays have in common is that they should both cause us to be grateful! You are so VERY fortunate to be able to play softball! I don’t care if you’re a starter or not, simply being healthy enough to run around the bases should be enough to make you grateful. Be grateful you have adults that care enough to make time to coach, instead of gripping about the way they coach. Be grateful to your parents for buying all your expensive equipment, and making it possible for you to go to all the games and practices and tournaments. Softball costs money, lots of money, and not everybody is as fortunate as you are to be able to afford to play softball. Be grateful – and show the people in your life how grateful you are. Christmas isn’t about thinking of all the things you want, it’s about thinking of all the things you can do and get for others! The more you give the more you get – it’s that way on the softball field and it’s certainly that way during the holidays!
I’ll end with a little story that happened to me that really helped me be grateful. Even though I’m writing this article about gratitude and thanks, I’m human, so I can complain and whine just like everyone else. One year I was at a big convention with tons of softball people and my knee was killing me. I have a pretty bad knee that gets worse the more I stand and walk on it. Well, my job requires me to stand and walk all day. So on this one particular day my knee was killing me, or so I thought. And right when I was starting to feel sorry for myself, a coach walks by on crutches – with 1 leg! He had a big smile on his face and was obviously excited to be at this convention able to learn and share and talk softball for days. That’s all it took for me to change my mindset and become grateful for what I have!
We can all apply holiday lessons to our softball lives, and take time out to thank those very special people in our lives. I hope you, your family and your teammates have a wonderful holiday season full of gratitude, thanks, traditions and fun!
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