It is football season. Reason enough for this old coach to smile.
And yet, I find that I am still wearin’ that one from this summer.
The one that started at Rennicke, grew at Cahill and got even bigger over at Kapco.
So before we get too far into this fall’s campaign, it would be appropriate to say a couple hundred or so words about that gem of our diamond.
In so many ways, this past season was truly a masterpiece. How those kids and coaches made so many good things happen, together. Not just for that one team, but for those that will follow too.
Coach Millard was as blessed to have this particular group, at this particular time, as those boys were to have him this summer. Records and accolades aside, things clicked. It was almost audible.
I think it was Mr. Emerson that said, “once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
So then, what was the decision?
On more than one occasion, Coach remarked “these guys both liked and respected one another.”
Now liking and respecting are one thing.
But to be the team they were meant to be, they still had to compete – all out – each time they stepped onto the diamond.
And to be the players they were intended to be, they still had to compete – all out – with each other.
The former cannot happen without the latter.
To compete, and fall short with an opponent is one thing. But to compete and fall short with classmates, friends, or best buddies can be a sticky wicket. It can leave one feeling exposed, vulnerable and outcast.
And at that point, the “liking and respecting” part could very well take a powder. And a summer could be lost in more ways than one.
Unless there is exemplary leadership.
Leadership that transcends the game and gets down to what it is really all about.
Leadership that has the gift to be able to mentor, teach and coach those boys to lead themselves – first as individuals – and then as players.
Leadership that is blessed with a level of courage, trust and faith to be able to decide to “let go” , step back a little, and let “them” happen.
Leadership that is able to genuinely connect.
I know that Coach Millard is a fine baseball coach.
Yet from where I sat and stood this past summer, I could sense that he was coaching something far more important than just baseball.
He was coaching life.
As a team, the Highlanders competed with the best that SE Wisconsin had to offer over a span of 34 games.
But to perform and achieve at such a high level, they first had to openly, and without hesitation, be able to compete with one another.
And to be able to compete with one another in this fashion, they truly did have to like and respect one another.
And being the man that he is, a leader built with courage, trust and faith, Coach Millard loosened his grip and decided to “let them happen.”
A decision that ultimately affirmed his trust in them.
A decision that expressed just how much faith he had in them to “happen”.
A decision to genuinely connect to them not just as a baseball team.
But as individuals.
A decision that will stretch across all the summers to come.
And then, “…the universe conspired to make it happen.”