What is in a record? Blood. Sweat. Tears.
Yes. All those cliche nouns people say make up sports.
Sacrifice. Hard work.
But there is so very much more that goes into every season; so very much more that, to the untrained eye, is not represented by a team's record.
Last night my girls ended their season in a triple overtime game in the bottom of the tenth inning. Their season record: 17-6. As we packed up the equipment and the girls gave one another teary hugs, I couldn't help but remember seven years ago when I was doing the same.
It's hard to explain to someone who has never been a part of a sport's team exactly what that 17-6 represents for a player.It is more than wins and losses. It is more than proof of how many games were played. It stands for more than showing a winning or losing season.
It can also be deceiving, for although the first number stands for games won, it doesn't always represent a happy ending. Many times, though a win was achieved, the seven innings it took to accomplish that feat were painful, even ugly at times, and not a showcase of the team's true talent. And on the flip side, the number representing losses might also stand for proud moments of endurance or late game rallies that barely fell short but left heads held high. Sometimes though, as we proved last night, a number on the left may stand for a game of ten innings- scratching, clawing, pulling one's teammates to the finish the line.
But what is often missed in the record by those looking from the outside is the dash. For the dash in between the wins and losses is what has made athletes come back to the game since competition was first invented centuries and centuries ago.
The dash, deceiving in its inconspicuous size and placement, is the heart of an athlete. It is the practices in the summer, sweat trickling on tanned skin. It is hearing your friends shouting and splashing at the pool across the street while you do one more push up for an overthrown ball. It is weight lifting in a gym with no air conditioning to be half a second faster and capable of throwing the ball harder than your opponent. The dash is staying after school day after day to practice, sometimes wondering what it feels like for your classmates who get to be home before 5:30 or 6 every night. It is setting up the pitching machine, filling up the water jug, and running three laps around the field. It is taking a ball to the shin, face, arm, gut, or ankle, and waiting with anticipation for the bruise to show up. It is dirt in your shoes, clothes, hair, fingernails, car and room for four months. It is laughter at practice while a teammate imitates the coach. It is a joke at the mound to relieve tension. It is 123 bags of sunflower seeds.
The dash is also laughter, frustration and tears with teammates, high fives and pranks. The dash is bus rides and sandwiches and fudge rounds and capri suns and grapes. It is giving up Saturdays for a tournament that requires you to wake up at 6:30. It is scars on your knees when you're in a dress on the homecoming court. It is a prayer before games, hands held in nervous anticipation. It is breaking from a huddle, thundering "ALL HEART!" for the other team to hear. It is lucky underwear and superstitions, and the school song sung off key.
The dash is a community that believes in you and follows your games and cheers you on. It is parents who leave work early, make food, cheer the loudest, and bring you your cleats you left at home. It is a loyal fan who comes to every practice and beats the bus to every game. It is catchers and pitchers who get to practice early and stay late to throw more pitches and work on their rise ball. It is wanting to win a game for your coach who has stuck by your side since t-ball and taught you fundamentals. It is blisters and bruises and smiles and small victories that the crowd doesn't see. It is a crucial steal to second, and a beautiful slide into home. It is a diving catch, or a routine play at first.
You see, the dash is what distinguishes the athletes. It is the dash that creates a team and it is the dash that teaches respect. It's the dash that made me want to be a part of a team again and makes players wish they could all make it to the pros. It is the dash that will be remembered well after the wins and losses are forgotten.
So what is in a record?
It's hard to explain unless you've put on the helmet and pulled up your sliders. If you haven't spit dirt out of your mouth after a slide, or caught a pop fly against the fence, ran so hard and fast that you broke another new pair of cleats, or hit a double on a full count than you may look at the dash between our 17 and our 6 and not know all that it contains.
What a story it tells.