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Battles Men Face: How To Get Over Dropping the Ball

Generally, I love to watch football, but as a therapist, I find a part of football difficult to watch. It’s hard to watch kickers who miss, especially kickers who miss on the final play of the game or at the end of a must-make drive. It doesn’t matter if the snap was bad or the kick was long or the angle was off; kickers are expected to make it. When they don’t, I getd a drop-to-the-bottom jolt in my gut because I know that guy’s going to beat himself up for days.

Each of us is an amalgamation of our experiences. Because we live in a less-than-ideal world, many of those experiences produce pain. The goal in life should be not to avoid pain – that is not possible. The goal in life should be to use the pain that happens to power something better. The goal in life should be to use that pain to power what’s next.

Do you remember game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers? I do, and not only because our division of rivals, the Rangers, somehow managed to get into the World Series. I remember that game because there was a “missed kick” moment in the fifth inning. David Freese, the Cardinals’ third baseman, was playing in front of a hometown crowd, having grown up in St. Louis. At the start of the fifth inning, Freese inexplicably dropped a routine fly ball hit by the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, who went in to score, putting Texas up by one. I can still see the bobble in my mind. There was absolutely no reason why Freese should have let that ball pop out of his mitt. He missed the “kick” and had no one to blame but himself. The fifth inning of game 6 was a painful one for David Freese. Hometown kid drops a routine pop-up, allowing the dread Josh Hamilton to score and the other team to go ahead and possibly win the Series. So, what’s next?

Bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals are down by two runs. David Freese is still in the game and up to bat with two outs. Freese is sitting on two strikes against Ranger closer Naftali Felix when he hits a two-RBI triple and ties the game 7-7. Pandemonium breaks out in St. Louis and in my living room. The game goes into extra innings. In the top of the tenth, Josh Hamilton hita two-run homer to give Texas the lead. The Cardinals manage to tie it up in the bottom of the tenth, and the game goes into the eleventh inning. With the Rangers scoreless through their at bat, it’s time for the Cardinals to be up. Once again, enter David Freese, who goes on to hit only the fourth walk-off home run in a game of 6 of a World Series. After this amazing win, the Cardinals go on to take game 7 and the Series. David Freese goes on to be named to the 2011 World Series MVP. Game 6 was quite possibly the most exciting game of baseball I’ve ever watched. One of the best things about that game was the redemption of David Freese.

Do you think that when David Freese was up to bat in the ninth inning, with two outs and two strikes, he was thinking about that dropped ball? I can almost guarantee it. But I’ll bet he wasn’t thinking about it to immobilize himself. I’ll bet he was thinking about it to movtivate himself.

What motivates you when you miss the kick or drop the ball? Are you even motivated to do anything after such an event? David Freese didn’t slump in the dugout, eating sunflower seeds and kicking himself for very long. I’m sure he did for a bit, but he was ready to meet the challenge when it came up in the ninth. He stayed in the game.

Too many men spend their lives stuck at the point of the dropped ball and staying stuck isn’t the answer. The real answer is to learn everything you can from it so you’re better prepared to catch the next one.

The above is excerpted from chapter 14 in Battles Men Face: Strategies to Win the War Within by Dr. Gregory Jantz.

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