By Ashlen Renner
I heard the crack of the best line drive my team has had in the entire game — maybe the entire season. The Pilot’s softball team, The Dingbats, was on a losing streak, but that didn’t matter to me as I sprinted to third base.
I had already passed my game goal of making it to second, so when I skidded to third with time to spare, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “I made it!”
When it comes to sports, I never have much luck. My middle school rec soccer and softball teams lost every single game. My lacrosse team won three games in my entire high school career. The Dingbats aren’t doing so well, and on top of that, I am a Washington Redskins fan.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from sports it’s how to lose, but I think that is one of the most important lessons any sportsman can learn. In a time when every kid gets a trophy, it is easy to lose sight of what sports are really about — having fun.
I remember my parents signing me up for the sport of the season — soccer in fall, basketball in winter and softball in spring.
Maybe they wanted to keep me in shape, or maybe they secretly hoped I would eventually get a scholarship out of one of these sports. Unfortunately, I was not particularly exceptional at any of them.
As the “new kid” in school, my goal when I first started playing sports in the area was never to win or collect trophies, but to make new friends.
When I started playing soccer through AC Sandhills, there were only enough girls to field two teams in my age group, making it easy to learn everyone’s names. But every Saturday morning we played against the same team — and lost every single time.
We never had a miracle comeback at the end of the season reserved for the movies, but over the course of the season, we learned how to pick each other back up after a tough loss and work harder at practice.
Halfway through the season, the coaches asked us if we wanted to shuffle the teams to make the games more competitive, but we voted to stick together.
Losing can either destroy a team or form long-lasting relationships. It all depends on the attitudes of the players.
When Pinecrest first offered lacrosse as a club sport when I was a freshman, I reluctantly joined a group of a dozen girls who wanted to start the first girls’ lacrosse team. We had no coach, no uniforms and no idea what we were doing.
The first lacrosse game I played, my team got crushed by a varsity team in Greensboro 21-0 — accidentally scoring on our own goal once.
We had been practicing for this single game for months, and I and many others left the field feeling like we had wasted our time — there was no way we could have closed the skills gap in one season.
Many of the girls graduated and some left the team, but the ones who came back the next season recruited new players, found a coach and went on to play more games, winning one. It may not have looked like much, but we saw this as a major victory for the team.
By the time senior night rolled around, our little team doubled in not only players but in support. I started seeing lacrosse nets set up in parks, girls as young as 7 years old learning the sport at camps and lacrosse proving itself as one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and Moore County.
We may not have won a lot of games while I played at Pinecrest, but I was glad I didn’t quit after that first game. Now the Pinecrest girls’ lacrosse is a varsity team.
I have a sense of pride and attachment to the team I helped build. I still visit them and play pickup games with them from time-to-time — the last time I went, a girl half my age kicked my butt on defense — and I am constantly reminded that we didn’t build the team with stats or trophies, but with passion and hard work.
When I was on third base at the Dingbats game, my third base coach, Pat, gave me some advice that stuck with me.
“Some people believe they are born on third base,” he said. “They think they are entitled to it.”
Those words rang in my head as I sprinted to home, crossing the plate with a fist pump in the air.
Losing has taught me to work hard to get to third base, remain optimistic and celebrate little victories instead of the trophies. Most importantly, I learned to have fun getting there.
Ashlen Renner is a rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill and a summer intern at The Pilot.