As a Baltimore native and lifelong Orioles fan, I was disappointed with their recent elimination from the playoffs. Nevertheless, I was heartened by their successful season, especially since prognosticators gave them no chance of winning anything this year.
Growing up in Baltimore, I couldn’t help but become an Orioles fan. Aside from the fact that the O’s were perennial winners, they also played solid, fundamental baseball. It was accomplished through the “Oriole Way.”
“If anybody had a definition of an Oriole Way, it’s ‘practice until you get it right’,” explains legendary Orioles first baseman (and BBQ aficionado) Boog Powell. “You go and do it day in and day out, and there are no excuses. There’s only one way to do it, and you do it, and you do it right.”
Practice hard every day. Make no excuses. Do it the right way.
In other words, take personal responsibility for both your successes and your failures.
Unfortunately, the guiding principles of the Oriole Way are disappearing from other walks of life.
“When a college freshman received a C- on her first test, she literally had a meltdown in class,” according to a Huffington Post article, Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids? “Sobbing, she texted her mother who called back, demanding to talk to the professor immediately (he, of course, declined).”
This situation is becoming the norm, says clinical psychologist Dan Griffin, as parents now employ one of two strategies when dealing with a child’s academic performance — cheerleader or football coach.
“The cheerleader has learned to ‘praise the effort, not the outcome’ so mom and dad ignore the score and pass out prizes to all,” writes Griffin.
“The coach’s main job, on the other hand, is to build character. Built into that lesson is an assumption of challenge and possible, eventual failure. The aim is to develop a ‘character repertoire’ that includes will power and the ability to delay gratification and to accept hardship as part of life.”
I doubt Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach, is overly concerned with the “character repertoire” of his players, but he definitely understands the importance of challenging them and developing their will power.
Belichick, simply, tells his players to “do your job! Take care of your responsibility, and just do it right!”
In the same vein, recently retired New York Yankee icon Derek Jeter did not become an icon by avoiding responsibility.
“When you put a lot of hard work into one goal and you achieve it, that’s a really good feeling,” he says.
In other words, “Do your job and do it well,” paraphrases writer Jonathan Long. “You don’t have a 20-year MLB career with the New York Yankees if you don’t perform well and to the highest standards.”
Sounds like the Oriole Way: “Practice hard every day. Make no excuses. Do it the right way.”
This recipe for success is no secret to successful athletes and successful teams. So why have so many parents — and, consequently, kids — lost sight of this standard?
Because, as a society, we have allowed it to happen. Sadly, as a society, we will pay for it in the end.
“We need to let our kids fail at 12 — which is far better than at 42,” says Tim Elmore, founder and president of the non-profit Growing Leaders. “We need to tell them the truth — with grace — that the notion of ‘you can do anything you want’ is not necessarily true.”
At the very least, dreams won’t happen if one is unwilling to work hard and accept both the successes and failures that occur along the way.
Just ask the Baltimore Orioles of 2014. They were not the best team this season, despite all their hard work. But I doubt the mothers of the players are calling MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to ask for a “do-over.”
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
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