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Pain Also Comes to the College World Series

By Joey Havens

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As you can tell by the fact that this is my third blog related to the College World Series, the entire experience really had an impact on me. But it wasn’t all fun.

Imagine: You are riding on cloud nine as your favorite school is playing in the most elite event there is for college baseball. The atmosphere is exciting, the fans are loud and energetic, and everyone literally feels the tension of every pitch. It’s electric to say the least. Then, the elimination loss comes for 7 of those 8 elite teams, and at the moment that last out is made, sadness overwhelms the losing teams and their fans.

As the legendary University of Texas coach Augie Garrido said after his team’s painful 10th inning loss to Vanderbilt in the semi-finals, “I have 27 kids with broken hearts.” 

It’s painful, and it happens in an instant. I could so clearly see the players and fans briefly lose the real perspective of what a great honor and achievement it is just to be in the field of the final 8 teams. I took these pictures of how the world around you quickly says your team is “out” which only reinforces this pain. Your school flag is lowered to half mast and your school merchandise if put on 50% off to move it on out.

But then, the electricity returns as you see players and fans begin to realize what a great year they have had. They begin to talk about the great experiences of this season and the CWS. They begin to hold their heads up, hug, celebrate with each other. They begin to reflect on all of the victories and hard work that got them to this stage.  It is such a joy to see the fans recognize the achievements and hard work of the team. The players recognize the coaches and the coaches recognizing the players. The players and coaches recognizing their fans who have supported them, not only at the CWS, but all season long.

The conversations turn quickly from the loss to the future and to where the program is headed. People begin to reflect on how the program is connecting people and impacting the school and people’s lives.  Laughter replaces the tears as people recall the lessons, memories and experiences that have been so much fun but also have made everyone and the program better. It’s at this point when I really had my “aha” moment. 

I realized the schools, the teams, and even the fans are really on a journey—just like we are as firms and in our individual careers. It’s the common vision and mission that makes the game worth playing.  It’s the love of the sport that is more important than the final outcome. It’s about growing a winning program not winning one championship. The connection and the impact are bigger than one game.

We are not going to win every game. As leaders, we will have some sadness and pain when we fall short of our goals on our journey to greatness. We will make some mistakes that will slow our progress. The pain of the missed goal or the recent loss should make us stronger and more determined to be better. We will not let the hard knocks deter us on our journey. We will continue to stretch for our full potential. 

As we serve a purpose greater than ourselves, it makes the journey not only worth it, but exciting. I think the sadness and the pain are important, because it helps us understand why the sacrifice is worth it. It keeps us grounded in our philosophy of being better every day. As we learn from those painful moments, we grow stronger as a team. Take a moment to reflect today, what painful experiences have helped you grow as a leader?