Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

I was a college basketball coach for 17 years, and a parent of three former college athletes. I am speaking from very specific experiences and am confident in my assessment. 

This winter I had the pleasure of seeing the outstanding play, Hamilton. It was a great evening of entertainment and certainly deserving of all the hype that has surrounded it. For those unfamiliar with the musical, it is the heretofore untold story of one of our founding fathers – Alexander Hamilton. The marquee song in this musical is “My Shot” and the lyrics are interesting:

    And I am not throwing away my shot, my shot!
    I am not throwing away my shot, my shot!
    Hey yo, I’m just like my country
    I’m young, scrappy and hungry,
    And I’m not throwing away my shot!

This refrain resonates throughout the play in several ways – the emergence of our country, Hamilton’s rise to power, and ultimately his death. But the play’s bottom line is when you get your shot, you gotta make the most of it.

So what does this have to do with softball and opening weekend? It’s easy. As Joann and I followed the results of games across the country, we constantly checked in to see how OnDeck girls were doing. Some had great success, others not so much and some didn’t even play. This certainly struck a chord with us and reminded us of days gone by. Two of my children rarely played as freshmen in college. I felt that pain. 

Last weekend, a thousand plus freshmen made their college debuts. Most of them played sparingly, if at all. One of the best players in the country and her state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, didn’t pitch an inning. A solid infielder from Northern California didn’t play or get an at-bat. That’s tough. And it’s tough as a parent to see this happen. Your child goes from being a star and playing every inning, to wondering if she is going to play at all. And while the team is always the most important, these situations still are true tests of character and faith.

One of the greatest things about softball is that it’s a team sport and an individual sport. You can be successful, but the team may lose. Or the team could win, and you don’t play well or play at all. So conversely, one of the most difficult things about softball is that it is ultimately a team sport. The team’s success must always come before the player’s success.

This is where the old adage PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE comes into play! Every young player has to remember that the process cannot be trivialized or ignored. For some their shot comes early. For others it comes later and for some it might not even come until next year when the seniors have moved on. Patience allows the wise athlete to keep her eye on her goals, focus on what allowed her to become a great player in the first place, and learn the game from another perspective.

I feel good about saying, that in college athletics everyone eventually gets their shot. I have never known a good player to not get their shot. Then it becomes a matter of what the player does with it. Does she throw it away, or does she make the most of that moment? 

About 5 games have been played this season. In a career, the team will play over 200 games. As a freshman your career has just begun. Remember that when you get your shot, make the most of it. 


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