Rae Millman is a tough act to follow. I liked her the first time I met her. Most people do. She is a wonderful combination of wisdom, honesty and warmth. Like a hug from a southern aunt. She understands the strength that a healthy team possesses and works hard to build and sustain a strong team within our congregation. Her leadership and dedication to UUCC didn’t end on June 30. She is still championing our congregation at every turn. When you’re choosing players for your team, choose Rae.
Actually, I don’t do any coaching. I coordinate. I send email reminders, track who will be at each game, and pen our lineups. I can’t take any credit for our team’s current first-place ranking among 12 teams.
Our games are co-ed. By rule, batters must alternate by gender. Substitutions are unlimited and everyone takes turns playing in the field. Our team of 10 men and nine women ranges in age from 19 to about 55. There are married couples on the team and several families have parents and kids playing together. This is a true multi-generational activity where people of all ages call each other by their first names and function as peers.
Our league is interesting. We may have the only church-sponsored team, although I’m not sure how some of the teams were organized. Two teams’ players are current and former residents of an addiction halfway house. I have been impressed with the support they give each other on and off the field. And I have been struck by the visible toll that addiction and the struggle to stay clean takes on these people. Talk about a team spirit. Their lives depend on teamwork.
Our team serves as an extension of our congregation. We have members and friends playing. Some folks have little to do with UUCC outside of softball, but they are, nonetheless, connected to us through this activity. I have heard some of them self-identify as UUCC team members. As such, they are ambassadors for our congregation. Activities that engage the wider community are essential to our congregation’s continued vitality. We need more community involvement to achieve justice in its many forms.
Our secret weapon is our women. They are REALLY good softball players. Our women are the reason we win most of our games. Our men are about as good as the men on the other teams, but our women are a cut above. Isn’t it fitting that a UU team would be led by powerful women? Isn’t it appropriate? I am so proud to be on the team with the awesome women. They rock! And, therefore, so do we men.
As the coach, I have to balance our desire to win with our desire to be inclusive and play as a team. I could put the 10 best players on the field and we might win more games, but we wouldn’t be as good of a team without the other nine. I see a lot of parallels to this in life. Too often we choose to win instead of fielding all of the players. There is inherent worth in being inclusive; in fielding even the less-talented players that might cost a victory. There are times when I support merit-based selection. And there are times when I think inclusion is more important. In this instance, playing as a team is more important than winning. It is all the more gratifying when you play as a team, using all of your players, and you win.
We, as a congregation, don’t always play as a team. We don’t always use all of our players. But when we win, when we do amazing things – our best work – we use the whole roster.