“Focus on your mission and you will come to see the struggles of life not as a burden but as an integral part of the process.”
-John R. Wood
To everything there is a season... As we near the end of one season and prepare for the next I often find myself reflecting. It is always humbling when I stop and think about where we are and what we’ve done; where we came from and how we got here. It amazes me that what we offer is so different because we just do what we feel is right. The response we get from families keeps me in awe. Sometimes I wonder why people follow us and other times I wonder why they don’t. Whenever we receive feedback, we listen and evaluate how we might be able to do things better. We had plenty of “struggles” this baseball season and with that numerous opportunities to “focus on our mission” and grow personally. The opportunities challenged us to remain consistent in our mission.
It is important to us to keep our identity by living our mission. This is an identity we had long before we put it on paper, or Facebook, or our website. This faithfulness to our mission is something that becomes increasingly more difficult as we grow in numbers and expand our operations, but with that all the more important. When I see at the end of the season the harvest we reap in Hustler players and families, I know that we’ve sowed bountifully and that we’ve stayed true to our mission and ourselves. UnFettered Athletics may bear our name, but it is the families that participate who make us who we are; who define us. They do so not in their performance on the field, but by living our values off the field.
This season we had 75 players on 6 baseball teams. This is more than we’ve ever had! Not only that, but 37 players were new to the Hustlers. In the past, when we add 1-3 players a team, it is easy to assimilate them to the Hustler way. Our coaches and veteran Hustlers do a great job of not only showing them how we do things, but helping them along, including them, encouraging them, and desiring their teammates’ success. This did not change with the numbers change this season, although it was more difficult.
Some of the struggles we experienced went unnoticed, others were noticed. The exciting part is that we struggled together as an organization and we had opportunities to live what we teach. Our youth and families went through these together and we’re better for it. Many of these struggles are unfamiliar to other teams or organizations. They are unique to us because what we do is unique. It would be much easier to win baseball games than to change the world, but this is not our mission. We are pleased that the bar is set higher for us. We are pleased with the feedback we hear that would never be considered in another organization because the expectations are less. We are thrilled by the opportunities we have for improvement and the action we are taking to be better on the field as well as off the field.
Some things we’ve noticed are the importance of commitment and teamwork. Baseball is a team sport, but it is also very individual. We cannot be successful just by having talented players on the field. We need the entire team to go through the same practices, the same conditioning, and the same learning. This not only improves the individuals, but creates cohesiveness and chemistry that compounds in the team’s success on the field.
As we grow in numbers it is critical that we as leaders communicate expectations to our participants. It is important for us to explain the why. It is important that people understand their role in us fulfilling our mission.
Our mission is fulfilling and is being fulfilled. At the tee ball level we had nine players all of which were second or third generation Hustlers (younger siblings of older Hustlers) or referrals. Of six games, I coached 1 inning due to commitments with our older teams. The tee ballers didn’t miss a beat. We had plenty of experienced assistants and junior coaches step up and we were by far the best team in our league.
At the machine pitch level we had 24 players on 2 teams. We had a plethora of assistants, some experienced and some new. They were all great! We had 12 new players/families that assimilated well and immediately bought in to what we do. Sometimes we played well and sometimes we didn’t. Overall we had a blast and we improved. These are our first two and biggest goals. And we also accomplished our third goal: win.
Our 10U is one of my favorite groups of kids. Many of these players have played every season together for years. There are incredible friendships at this level and they do a great job of including new kids. And we had plenty of new baseball players to bring along. We struggled on the field, but this was an integral part of the process. We are very excited to watch this group grow and develop moving forward.
Our 12U added numerous new players and struggled with the variety of experience and the differing ages. However, they worked hard and learned a lot. Again, we look forward to seeing these new Hustlers develop and to watch the team grow together.
Lastly, our 14U was an incredible challenge with incredible success. It seemed every player had a different idea of what their season would look like and struggled to see and get on board with our vision. It was awesome to see them begin to understand what we are teaching. They had great chemistry from the get go, but it did not immediately translate to the field. In the end we had a bunch of guys that were pleased they had Coach Fetter to push them to be their best. They were pleased with their progress off the field because it translates not only onto the field but far beyond. We had one in particular who began the season concerned about our win-loss record and ended the season helping a teammate’s 2 year old brother get a drink from the fountain at Werner Park.
Our mission defines who we are. We are proud to say we do not waiver from it.
The mission of UnFettered Athletics is to change the world by using youth sports to positively influence the lives of children and families in our community. We will accomplish this by instilling the values of: respect, discipline, hard work, integrity, loyalty, humility, pride, and strong moral character off and on the field.
This is what you do. Every practice. Every game. Every day. On the field and off the field. I couldn’t be more proud to experience integral parts of the process with you. Thank you.