The first lesson is Never Give Up. Persevere. Find a way. All season long, the Royals have been streaky, finding ways to climb atop the Central Division of the American League, only to slide and have to regain their momentum. In games, they found ways to claw back and beat teams that thought they had a win sewed up. Never giving up requires a belief in yourself and a willingness to continue to look for answers after recognizing that what you were doing wasn't working. It also means moving past mistakes, whether they be player throwing errors or managerial strategic errors. Tuesday night's game was no exception. A base running blunder shut down an early rally. Swinging at pitches far out of the strike zone on a regular basis demonstrated their own anxiety as they tried to make the comeback happen with every pitch. And then there was that first pitching change that had us all scratching our heads. How many times have we given up as students, or in relationships, or at work because we let the obstacles overshadow the fact we had the ability to dig down a little deeper and still achieve the goal? How many times have we made an adjustment that just didn't work, so we stopped trying to find more solutions and instead just said, "Oh well," and let it go? Not the Royals.
The second lesson is Utilize Your Strengths. All season long (and last night during the national broadcast) we heard about how the Royals aren't home run hitters... in fact the worst team in Major League Baseball. Yet we found a way to win 89 regular season games, so there had to be some sort of talent there. They call it the small ball game. Dinking and doinking hits (as Rex Huddler the Royals TV commentator would say) and running wild on the base paths. We don't seem to possess natural power but we can run, and run we did all season long (leading the Majors in stolen bases). Last night alone the Royals had 7 stolen bases and 5 in the nail-biting last few innings! The A's designated hitter hit 2 home runs last night, accounting for 5 runs. And they lost. So power isn't always the answer. The key is to take advantage of your strengths to minimize your weaknesses. If a student isn't a great test taker, then be the best writer, analyst, or discussion leader possible. Learn the material in ways that you understand it thoroughly and can apply it. Then every now and then you'll hit that test out of the ball park, but in between times, you are still winning games in different ways.
The third lesson is teamwork. We accomplish a lot more when we work with others rather than trying to do everything ourselves. No one has all the answers all of the time. While last night's game ended with one player getting the winning hit, it was the team and their loyal, maniacal fans that kept the possibilities of a win alive all night long even when the scoreboard showed it might be an early exit to the first post season appearance in 29 years. You could see the players encouraging each other and planning strategy. The fans were on their feet, doing their part cheering wildly and chanting, "Let's go Roy-als!" over and over. They rallied together and won together, and had they lost, they would have lost together too. They own their mistakes and give credit to others when they succeed. They feed off each other and the energy generated by the roaring crowd. Relationships matter on and off the field, in and out of the classroom, and in the work place. You have each other's back. You try out new ideas and help find ways to succeed together. You celebrate successes and encourage and comfort when things aren't going well. It's easy to support a consistent winner. It's the sign of a true commitment to show unconditional love and support through the droughts and disappointments of "close but no cigars." And in the end that belief, camaraderie, and support gives us the tools and the motivation to persevere and emerge as winners.
Post Game Thoughts. In the world of education and politics we can learn a lot from the Royals win last night, and the journey that got them this far. There have been disagreements over strategies and performances, and calls from fans for the ouster of the manager or for players to be traded, but in the end, the boys in blue band together everyday and play the game. Success doesn't happen overnight. The last 2 years they have utilized their strengths and put together winning seasons after the owner was finally willing to put some money into obtaining and retaining the talent that is needed to make the goal of winning easier to accomplish. With our political fights polarizing our populace and making it difficult for schools to do what they need to do to effectively provide the best education possible for our students, teachers go to work every day and play the game. They utilize their dwindling resources to the best of their ability, working for a win each and every day. But we recognize that this is a team effort and one that comes with the need to obtain and retain the best educators and provide them with the necessary tools and resources. Most of all, educators need all of our SUPPORT to cheer them on, work with them and not against them. When we support education the way we support our favorite teams, the final score will show a win for our kids and that's what really matters. Be Royal!