This winter, Will’s baseball coach held extra indoor hitting practices to get the team prepared for spring ball. Admittedly, I was always a little skittish for him to be practicing in the winter. But he was having fun and demanding to go.
But at the last session a few weeks ago, Will was struggling. He was taking what looked like half-swings. His coach noticed, too, and asked me if he was playing golf.
"I wish," was my response. But even as the words came out of my mouth, I realized what was going on. Will, Ben, and I had played countless hours of hockey in our basement all through the fall and winter, and now Will was swinging the baseball bat like a hockey stick. So, desiring to be the next hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs AND an “all-star dad,” I informed Will why he was struggling on our drive home from practice.
At the time, I didn’t think much of it. But I soon realized my parenting misstep.
Being the parent-pleaser he is, that very night, instead of asking to play hockey as had been our daily tradition for months, Will asked to hit nerf baseballs in the basement to get “ready for the season” (Alex Jr. in training). Fast forward three weeks later, and we still haven’t played a hockey game. While discussing the upcoming NHL playoffs one morning as I was on my way off to work, I asked Will why we weren’t playing hockey anymore? “Because I don’t want to ruin my baseball swing,” he said.
This crushed me.
I wish the Chicago Cubs took baseball this seriously.
These kinds of situations take precedence over work, so I put my bag down and sat at the kitchen table with the boys. I then proceeded to explain to them the 3 Spring Sports Rules for the Hoffer house:
Have Fun. Stay Safe. Try your best.
Will added a 4th: To have good sportsmanship. All right then. 4 Spring Sports Rules.
I reminded Will that I don’t care how well he hits the ball so long as he is having fun, staying safe, and trying his best. Further, if he is smart enough to explain the difference between a hockey and baseball swing – and he is –I don’t think he has anything to worry about with regards to playing floor hockey! To this, he smiled and said, “thanks dad.”
Our 1980s sitcom moment aside, as I transitioned from my role as dad to my bald in business personae on my commute to Hoffer Plastics, I quickly realized that those rules--have fun, stay safe, and try your best--are directly applicable to what I do every day at work. Throw in Will’s fourth rule, good sportsmanship, and you’re on your way from “Good to Great.” After all, you cannot be a level 5 leader without being someone others respect, and who respects a bad sport?
I share this little story to encourage you to simplify your approach to life and leadership. Yes, we need to “confront the brutal facts,” “put in our 10,000 hours,” and do whatever the current business book advice of the day is.
But we also need to have fun, stay safe, and do our best.
As Ben reminded me as I gathered my work bag that morning, “you cannot make it a great day unless you try your best, dad.”