THE BEGINNING OF WINNING WITHOUT WINNING


Most of my younger years I grew up thinking perhaps around six weeks old but an older sibling thinks it was more like six months of age.  Not exactly sure of the age, I was just a baby when something happened that would change my life forever and was also the beginning of my book, “Winning Without Winning.”

If you have heard me speak I may have told this story and the confused looks makes me smile but yes, my book was started when I was just a baby.

The year was 1953 and the dawning of the polio epidemic.  I caught it.  The life long effects resulted in my left leg significantly weaker and smaller than my right leg.  A brace from ankle to knee had to be worn for my first ten years.  I was different than other kids and faced many issues growing up because of that difference, but that is another story.

Turn the clock ahead 12 years.  I was athletic despite the handicap and always picked first in make up games of football and baseball.  I could throw, catch, pass, field and even pitch, but never signed up for organised sports.  “Sign up Gerry,” my friends would all say.  It’s fun.  They convinced me so when I was 13 years old I signed up for baseball.  I looked so forward to all the fun my friends convinced me it would be.

Well the coach named Joe saw me limp.  Despite my athletic abilities Joe saw me as a detriment to the teams chance of winning the ball game.  So my first year of organised sports had me sitting on the bench game after game.  I would play when only eight other players showed up.  “Sign up Gerry, its fun,” my friends said.  The whole summer had me wondering just when the fun begins.  A coach named Joe.  A coach out to win at all costs despite the fact we were only kids.  I never signed up for any kids sport again.  See the picture emerging on how my book started?

Now lets turn the clock ahead again another 10 years.  The company I was employed by was looking for players to fill a team so I volunteered.  As it turns out my talent as a pitcher was good enough to rank as one of the top pitchers in the league that took my team to the championship for years.  So its not like I didn’t have the talent or ability to play when I was 13 years old.  I did have the talent but for a disillusioned coach named Joe, whose agenda was to win at all costs, I lost an entire childhood of playing organised sports.  How dare Joe do that to a child already strapped with a physical handicap?

Turn the clock ahead another 20 years.  Now in my forties I was involved in kids sports for years as a coach then as Umpire-in Chief on the executive.  My involvement with sports had come full circle from observer to participant to coaching to executive member.  As umpire-in-chief it became very clear that the attitude of my teenage coach Joe, was still active and deep rooted over 30 years later.

Can that be fixed?  Not likely but what if we could change the win at all costs attitude to one of fairness and sportsmanship, just one coach at a time?  Years of trials and tribulations ended up in the form of a book called, “Winning Without Winning.”

So from polio as a baby, to a benched ball player at 13 years old, to a 23-year-old pitcher to a 40-year-old father involved as an executive member of kids baseball you now know how this book had its beginnings when I was just a baby.

Many people have told me stories and some similar to my own story.  Now in my sixties, to this very day, what Joe did to me still hurts me.  I missed out on a childhood of playing sports because of his vision of winning at all costs.  If there is a silver lining in my testimony its this --- Winning Without Winning will not change everyone but as long as it changes one coach in a positive way, I can accept Joe’s decision.

 

 

 

 

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