by Jack Warren, AthleticOps.com editor
If you’ve heard me at a speaking engagement, chances are that you’ve heard me tell the story about my encounter with Northwest Indiana umpiring legend Wally McCormack during my very first high school varsity baseball at-bat as a scrawny and frightened freshman. It’s a moment that’s impacted me all these years later and one for which I’m sure Mr. McCormack gave little thought at the time.
You see, not a day passes that we don’t have multiple opportunities to impact a life for good or for ill. Rarely do we have an encounter where the end result is neutral. It could be something as premeditated as a job interview or player-coach conference. It might be as random as a chance encounter at the grocery store or passing someone on your run. The bottom line is that you have multiple opportunities each day to either make or break someone’s day, week, or month (or longer).
How much thought do you give these encounters? How much do you measure the words that escape your lips or consider the unintended frown that’s painted on your face?
I happened upon a guy last year that I had not seen for over 15 years. I first worked with him 20 years ago. I told him how I remember him from our earliest encounters, walking around with a perpetual smile and the ever-present yellow #2 pencil between his fingers. He’d come back to the area where I was working at the time long enough to tell me his joke of the day. I don’t think he realized until then just how much those brief encounters meant to me – especially on the days where I was feeling plowed under.
So much of our life in the athletic world is planned – sometimes overly so. Team meeting. Check. Monthly one-on-ones. Check. Academic check-up. Check. Post-season debriefing. Check. You’ve even got an entry on your calendar to remember to walk through the locker room once a week for brief “informal” encounters with each player. Yep, we’ve got the bases covered. Or do we?
How much thought do you give to the chance encounter with one of your players at the grocery store? When you run into a fellow staffer at Home Depot, are you talking shop or asking her about her sick child? When you run into a student manager or equipment room guy at your favorite barbecue joint, do you offer to buy their meal? Can you even remember their name? How many times have you taken the time to walk down past the end of the bench prior to a game and greet the woman who’s been sitting in the same spot, watching your games for five years? And when you’re feeling sorry for yourself because you’re sitting in your office at 8:00 p.m., do you even think to ask the guy who’s emptying your garbage can about his family?
You’ve got these random encounters every single day. How much thought are you putting into making them pay off? If you put a quarter of the effort into these daily moments of impact as you do your practice or travel plans, you’ve got a chance to impact a myriad of lives for the good for years to come. I’m sure Wally McCorrmack never thought that decades after that brief encounter, someone would still be writing about it.