The ball whizzed by about six feet from my head. “I’m right here!” I shouted, “not over there!” I was 14 years old, playing catch with a member of my softball team. And this kid’s aim, or lack thereof, was annoying. Every time she threw, the ball went way over my head or off to the side out of reach. Dad, who helped coach my team, was watching. I ran over near him for a drink of water. “I sure wish she would learn to throw!” I complained in frustration.
“Hmm.” he said. “Seems like that’s quite an opportunity she’s throwing at you.”
“Huh?” I asked taking off my hat and wiping the sweat off my face. I looked up at him, squinting into the sun. I didn’t understand his point any better than I could see his face. “What is he talking about?” I wondered silently as I ran back for another round of expected torture.
Everyone on the team was told to rotate. Every time my new partner threw, the ball landed right in my glove. The two of us fell into an easy rhythm of catch-step-throw, back and forth and back and forth. “This is more like it!” I thought. I loved feeling the solid smack of the ball landing in the center of my glove. I loved the moment of suspension as I landed the catch on my back foot, then lunged forward. I loved the stretch of release as my weight shifted, my arm whipped out in front of me and my whole body propelled the ball through the air.
“Good throw,” Dad said as he walked up beside me. We were both proud of my arm that had developed slowly over the last few years after hours of playing catch together.
“Thanks,” I said without losing my stride. Back and forth and back and forth. He was still standing there. “What?” I asked, sensing he had something to say.
“Well, I’m just noticing how much easier it is to catch that ball when it’s thrown right at you,” he says.
“Yeah’, no kidding,” I snickered.
“In fact, it’s so easy, almost anybody could do it,” he added casually.
“Huh?” I broke my rhythm and held on to the ball, watching as he walked away. What did he mean anybody could do this? He knew better than anybody that it had taken me years of practice to be able to effortlessly execute this complex series of movements with such precision. What was he talking about?
“Throw the ball!” my partner yelled impatiently. Too late. The coach called for another rotation. One of our newer team members stepped into place across from me. “Here we go again,” I thought and threw the ball to her. Her return throw was way over my head. In a burst of frustrated energy I jumped up and grabbed it.
“Wow! Good catch!” she yelled across the grass as I lobbed the ball back. This cycle repeated. Determined to catch that ball, I ran, jumped, reached and dove, a puppet to her every erratic throw. It required a ton of energy and focus, but surprisingly enough, I caught more than I missed. Even more surprising was how exhilarating it felt!
As the season continued, I discovered that experienced players who were able to actually throw the ball to me provided me a chance to smoothly, flawlessly catch and return with a satisfying rhythm. But the girls who erratically threw wild balls gave me a chance to be a superstar! I started looking for chances to partner with less-skilled team members rather than avoiding them. My motives were not altruistic; I was pushing my skill level. I learned to jump behind, in front of, up to, or down on anything that flew, rolled or bounced anywhere near my proximity. I was positioned as shortstop and commanded the infield. I learned that bad throws create opportunities for great catches.