Merriam-Webster states that to quit can be transitive, to depart from; to leave the company of; to cease normal, expected or necessary action. It states that to quit: is to be released from obligation, charge or penalty. One lesser-known definition states: to be freed from. Though none of these touch on that deeper sense of what it is to quit something. Is it a deeper seeded emotion that’s tied to it? Is it work ethic intertwined with it that makes it hard to truly define? How is it some can quit something at the first inkling of “it” (whatever “it” is) becoming more challenging, requiring more work to accomplish or otherwise not what they signed up for and others will die first before ever considering quitting? Is it in part due to resilience? Is it tied to one’s tolerance for abuse (and lest I remind you, abuse encompasses many things, not just the physical getting knocked around kind!)? What is it really and at what point is quitting not quitting at all?
I watched him walk out to right field, defeated and frustrated. It was written all over his face. They may have won the game however he didn’t have any real part in it. He was the only one that wasn’t put in to play. A lot of mistakes were made by his teammates and yet there he sat, quite literally warming the bench, riding the pine, whatever you want to call it. This had gone on all year. I watched it play out on the football field. He’d eat the quarterback for lunch, sacking him for the third time in the game only to get pulled back out to pace the sidelines. He was put on the junior varsity team to play basketball, not because he’s a terrible player rather because there wasn’t room for him with all the coaches’ kids, the freshman, taking the junior and senior player’s positions. Mind you, once junior varsity was finished playing for the season, they had no problem continuing to practice him against his classmates to sharpen their skills for playoffs. And now, here I was watching it on the baseball field. Oh, they were happy to play him all year last year, when there were just enough kids to make a team however this year, well this year they really don’t need him because all the coaches’ kids are available. Everyone celebrated the win and he stood there stoically with his arms crossed. I sat in the pickup watching him, tears streaming down my face, feeling as if my soul was being pierced with a dagger.
I had played baseball with my brothers for years. Time together was often spent in the cul-de-sac, mitts firmly on our hands throwing a ball back and forth for hours. I played softball for my high school and as a sophomore I became increasingly aware that I was sitting the bench more and more. I was a solid batter. I spent my spare time, when I wasn’t working, going to the batting cages and I was a good right fielder and short stop. A fellow teammate would meet me some days at the local park to throw grounders, pop flies and otherwise work the skin off the ball. It didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t a party goer and as I listened to the gossip in the locker room, I learned that those who were playing, were partying with the coaches and assistant coaches. I also began to observe that those party goers were mostly beautiful, barbie doll blondes. I became increasingly more frustrated not understanding what I was doing wrong. I’d ask the coach if there was anything I could be doing better and he’d state, “No Jess. You are an asset to the team. One of the most consistent players we’ve got and one of the hardest hitting. I’ll be putting ya in.”
I kept doing what I was doing, practicing hard and going to the batting cages. The following week, there I’d be, sitting on the bench eager to get in the game. Repeatedly the coaches would promise, “I’ll get you in. Next game we’re playing you. Hang on, there just wasn’t a good time to sub you in … blah, blah, blah.” I’d suck it up until I was alone, and then I’d cry. This went on for far longer than I care to consider anymore. They strung me out the rest of the season and into the next season. One day, I picked up my bat bag and walked off the field. That was it, I was done, the writing on the wall hadn’t changed, and I quit. I cried as soon as I got in my pickup. I’d never “quit” anything before. The harder something was, the deeper I would dig in my heels. It took me a long time to get past the hurt, to smile as a coach chided me and attempted to manipulate me into playing. And as an adult I ponder, when is quitting, no longer considered quitting.
I wiped my tears and took as many deep breaths as it took him to walk from the dugout to the pickup. As I rolled down my window thinking he was going to tell me he’d see me at home, he walked around the hail dimpled dually and climbed in the front seat. “I just don’t care anymore.”, he stated flatly, “I’m not helping clear out the dugout and I’m not walking back up to the school with everyone. I don’t know what I’ve done that is so terrible that I’m not even batting or running bases as a sub for someone. I’m done. I’m not practicing hard anymore and I’m not going to bust my ass hustling like crazy to prove myself to people who have no intention of playing me.” In my mind I wondered, when is quitting no longer quitting?
“Well,” I started with a deep sigh, “as long as you keep showing up for the games, I’ll keep showing up to support you with a warm towel and a pair of tweezers in hand to help you pull the splinters out of your backside.” He smiled a sideways smile full of the same frustration, hurt and disappointment I remembered feeling all those years ago. When is quitting, not considered quitting?
I’m not sure if disappointment, disgust or a complete and utter loss of respect for these coaches is what I feel. I’m angry knowing their empty promises and “pep talks” are just that, void of any intention, any follow through or commitment. I’m furious that they are knocking the try out of a hard working, loyal, ride or die kid. They are showing him in no uncertain terms that hard work doesn’t actually get you anywhere. That loyally, consistently showing up day in and day out means nada, nothing. They are proving to him what has already been shown to him, that promises are empty, mere words with little to no follow through. And, he is learning a tough lesson in what it is to be invisible.
He opted to miss practice and celebrate my 45th birthday with us this past Monday. He let his coach know via a text message long before practice was scheduled to commence. The coach never responded. The coach’s kids were sure to inform him that coach was furious he wasn’t at practice explaining that baseball comes first. You can imagine my furry when I heard about it. I cannot imagine punishing a kid for having their priorities straight. That whole GOD and family first thing! And just yesterday, he did the right thing and let his coach know days in advance that he won’t be attending the make-up game that is scheduled for Saturday due to a commitment he’d made prior to the game being rescheduled and the response from the coach, “You’ll be running a mile.” And I ponder, when is quitting, not quitting …
“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤