Without a doubt, December 10th and 11th were two of the most transformative days in my life. I can’t wait to tell you this story.
The past two days were my first two days of professional life coaching school in SF. I went into school with lots of questions, yearning for answers on structure and process, and was promptly thrown into the water and taught how to swim. We were put into uncomfortable situations, we were tested, we were made to coach people who were completely and utterly different than us, and we were given incredible amounts of feedback from the coaches who worked with us. These past two days were not just transformative, they delivered something I really couldn’t have predicted: my calling.
I left school last night and knew that I had found something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It spoke to me in so many ways and I felt like, even though I am very inexperienced at this point, I was good at it. I have this thirst for more and a curiosity about everything that I know will drive me forward. This is all great – but I have yet to get to the meat.
Yesterday, during our one on one group coaching session, I worked with this amazing woman who was one of the kindest, most loving and caring people I have ever met. With her words that came straight from the heart, we developed a very vulnerable relationship together in a very safe space and we were off to the races. It’s what came out of us coaching each other for two hours that’s the climax of this story.
After talking to her for about 45 minutes straight, referencing my time with baseball and how heartbreaking it was to lose that, and how much of a struggle I was having with moving forward with my life right now towards my dream, she looked me in the eyes and said something I will never ever forget. She said, “Your on the bench.”
Excuse my french here…but when I heard this, I literally said “F*ck” out loud. What she was referencing was my fear of putting myself out there even more than I have in the past, by doing poetry slams, by speaking, by making those deep personal connections with an audience, by developing myself into the man I knew I could be…but I have been sitting on the bench. As soon as she had put that concept into baseball terms, and told me that I was the guy that was simply not interested in wanting to play the game of life, it all snapped inside of me.
“I hate that guy” I said. “I NEVER want to be that guy again.” And then, a slew of other realizations came to me that almost put me into tears. You see, losing baseball for me was the only thing that was keeping me together. Once it was yanked from me, the flood gates opened and the dam broke. Everything that I had never dealt with came rushing in and I started to drown. For me, I thought baseball was lost forever. But what I realized last night was this – baseball has never been more important in my life than right now. Everything I ever learned; all the mental strength, all the mechanics, all of the conditioning and visualization…that all still applies…just in a different way.
She then goes, “Your probably not going to want to hear this…but it sounds like your arm falling apart was the best thing that happened to you.” How right she was. Even though everything inside of me broke after my time with the sport ended, it made me into a new person. Out of pain came the birth of a new me. But the story goes on.
We then started talking about my nicknames. The Ice Man and Colonel. She goes, “You are three different people when you need them.” The Ice Man comes out when you are on the mound playing the game and completely focused on the task at hand. Fastball. Outside corner. At the knees. Go. You are that man who is completely shut off from the crowd and everything else that could distract you from doing what you know how to do. Then, The Colonel, is the man who loves to run out onto the field and eat up the crowd’s roar and the other teams banter. The Colonel is vibrant, passionate, and determined. The Colonel is that one step before The Ice Man. But then, after your injury and all the fear of your elbow never working again, you developed this guy…this guy on the bench who doesn’t even want to go pitch because he is afraid of what might happen.
These words, all of them, struck me so hard I can’t even tell you. I had to stop myself from tears coming down my face in class because it was all so true. I was so afraid. I wouldn’t even run out onto the field and give it my best shot because I was so afraid and discouraged by what had previously happened to me.
As you could imagine, this was a pretty big moment – the one where I realized I was sitting in the dugout for a good portion of my life unwilling to run up and out to that field and breathe it all in. So I vowed to never be in the dugout again. In fact now I’m pretty sure that if I ever see a dugout I’m going to avoid it completely.
You see, this woman spoke my language and she got to see my current narrative and then realize a new one I could live. She helped me see that of course all of the things I am doing are great, but at the same time, I am missing that personal connection with the crowd. There is this chasm between me and others even while I am being vulnerable, and I have to start to find ways to bride that chasm. How though?
Coaching school was a brilliant start. Poetry slams where I can feel the audience right there connected with me. Then, eventually, speaking to crowds.
Why the three photos? The dugout, the field, and the mound. I will have to remind myself daily to give it my best go and step up and out from the dugout to go pitch again. Maybe I won’t be facing hitters anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still pitch in this game of life. That doesn’t mean I can’t use everything I had ever learned today. For such a long time I had been sitting in that dugout scared to go back out and play in the next inning. I’m ready to pitch now though. I’m ready to face whatever comes up against me.
I’ll never sit in that dugout again.
It’s time to take in the crowd and enjoy the game again. Because I loved that game. And now, I know that love never really stopped, it was just waiting for me to walk out onto the field again.
– Evan Sanders