My 11 year old daughter has more guts than I did at that age.
She's learning how to fast-pitch softball (taking lessons for the last 3 months) and is in the local girls softball league. She loves pitching but she's much smaller than most of the other pitchers, as much as 18 to 20 inches shorter! She's the second youngest girl on the team, and there's more than 18 months age difference between her and the oldest kids in the division!
Anyway, my daughter is the designated backup pitcher for our team. The first game was this weekend and the main pitcher for her team was traveling on vacation so it fell to my daughter to pitch the whole game. This was her first live game pitching with the 12 inch ball and from the 40 foot rubber.
She was very nervous.
She gave up just 3 runs in her first inning and even managed to strike out the side. Then the second inning came and she got only one out before the other team reached the per-inning run limit. Same thing happened in the third inning. There were some groans from the parents, but mostly on the really close pitches. I checked on her there in the third inning because I could tell she was having problems. When I talked to her I was prepared for her to ask to come out of the game (which would have meant we'd have to put in someone who had never pitched before...) but she surprised me by saying that she knew what she was doing wrong with her motion. She wanted to stick it out. She wanted to finish the game because she still liked pitching even after giving up 6 straight walks.
In the mean time, offensively, the team was a real mess. The opposing pitcher was a foot taller than my daughter and had been pitching for years and she can throw about 10 miles an hour faster than my daughter. She was blowing through our batters, making them look like statues as the ball zipped past for strike after strike.
In the bottom of the third inning, after some errors, a LOT of walks, and some sagging shoulders, we told the kids that the runs just scored against them weren't important. That we just needed to have some fun and do our jobs and use our heads. We needed to score our first run of the season and then build on that.
Our first batter, the only girl on the team younger than my daughter, worked a walk and then my daughter came up to bat. She had zero hits all of last season. She always jumps out of the batter's box, even on strikes. She's just too timid. But not this time. On the first pitch, from the pitcher who had struck out our best hitters in three pitches, she swung the bat, made contact and reached first base safely. Her first hit in over a season! I was very proud of her. Not because she got the first RBI of the season. Not because she went on to steal a base and make two perfect slides. And not because she went out in the 4th inning and held the team under the run limit.
I was, am, so proud of her because she didn't quit. She didn't give up when it would have been just so easy. No one expected her to be successful. No one expected her to swing the bat or get a hit or steal third with a beautiful slide.
She gutted it out. Gutted out the 18 runs she gave up. Gutted out the impatience of the infield, the throwing errors she and her teammates made. She gutted it out, end to end, and earned some respect. Not bad for a super shy 11 year old.
Looks like she'll be the sole pitcher again in a month or so. We better get practicing!