A Little League coach from Cumberland, Rhode Island, participating in the 2014 Little League World Series, has offered a speech for the ages, the likes of which could never be scripted, but were thankfully caught on camera.
After an 8-7 loss to the team from Chicago on Monday, coach David Belisle of the Cumberland Americans gathered the team on the pitchers’ mound to give them some encouraging words. Through a signature New England accent, and a series of “OKs?” in order to keep his players eyes on him, he delivered a pep talk worthy of a legendary sports film.
Mr. Belisle nailed three major points for the kids that won’t soon be forgotten, and that other coaches and parents might want to remember when tackling a tough loss.
First, he pointed to the positives. He pointed to the close score, the hit count, and made sure to remind his players understood that the game came down to the last out, and that the close score signaled only one thing to boys can hold onto, and that is that their hard work did payoff, despite the loss.
Second, Coach Belisle made sure to list the qualities that the kids possess of which they can be most proud. Belisle went on to point to specific qualities that everyone celebrating the team would remember: “They like fighters, they like sportsman, they like guys who don’t quit, they like guys who play the game the right way.”
Finally, and probably most important, he opened himself up for a hug and reminded the kids that he loved them, and he acknowledged an important gift that he will take with him always. On his knees, arms open wide, with sniffles from his players heard on the boom microphones, he gathered his team together, telling them, “I love you guys and I’ll love you forever…” adding ”…you’re all my boys, you’ll be the boys of summer."
This is a heroic ending to this team’s story, and that’s because it teaches kids the value of hard efforts, regardless of outcome.
The Vince Lombardi quote, “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” has often created an easy sound bite that oversimplifies what it means to be victorious. In the often heated atmosphere of youth sports in America, this quote has come to represent to some overzealous parents the entire reason for kids to take up sports in the first place.
However, especially in this case, it could also be viewed as challenge to sportsman and leaders to decide what constitutes "a win."
In the case of the Cumberland Americans baseball team from Rhode Island, the win was the talent and hard work that got them to the World Series, the determination that kept them in the last game until the very end, and the team spirit that united their efforts and led them to the mound for a hug after a heartbreaking loss. And the shine from Coach Belisle speech is sure to keep sparkling long after the final trophy is awarded at the end of the tournament.