A Swing and a Miss

Nicole Manges
Image of Huntington University campus showing students walking along paths. Image of Huntington University campus showing students walking along paths.
Part 5 of a 7-Part Series

As part of the team that wrote the Spirit of a Forester language in 2019, Nicole is sharing the heart behind each of the seven Forester traits and their practical applications. Today’s trait: Foresters Defy Complacency 

I discovered my appalling ineptitude for softball the summer before seventh grade. Sure, I had already known I wasn’t a gifted athlete. But I had no idea how bad I was until church league softball.  

Perhaps I’m being overdramatic. Nevertheless, my records are telling: In the few weeks I remained on the roster, I never hit the ball. My only hope of getting on base was to walk on, but my ability to tell a strike from a ball was sketchy at best. In the outfield, I had little to do so I frequently zoned out, and when a ball did come my way I had trouble throwing it into the infield.  

In short, I was terrible at softball. The blow to my teenage self-esteem was worse than the bruise I received the time a grounder popped up and bashed my shin.   

A decade later, after my ego had had sufficient time to recover, I tried again and played two more seasons of church league softball. I had intended only to watch a few games to support the team, but they needed an additional player.  

Did my skills improve during my ten-year hiatus from softball? Nope. Oh, I hit the occasional easy pitch and even made it around the bases once in a while. But more often than not, I missed, and I went entire games without a hit.  

It turns out that my appalling ineptitude is actually a unique talent for missing the ball by a quarter of an inch. I can swing at the right time, take the right stance, and even look directly at the ball…then swing a little low or a little high. With startling consistency.  

I’ve had many well-meaning people explain softball to me. In fact, I bet I could tell you exactly what you would say if you would watch me attempt a swing. I know what to do, but somewhere between thinking and doing, it’s a swing and a miss.  

At this point, I am ready to accept the fact that softball is not my sport. I am content to stay forever on the sidelines and never swing a bat in front of a crowd again. But as a Forester, I am supposed to defy complacency. Am I being complacent by giving up on my softball “career,” such as it was? 

By definition, complacency is unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction. The key here is unawareness. If I had let my memory of softball that summer before seventh grade define my relationship with softball for the rest of my life, I would have complacently accepted an old and possibly outdated truth about myself. If I never tried to play softball as an adult, I wouldn’t know what I was capable of doing.  

At the same time, I don’t have to be good at everything and take every shot to defy complacency. Now that I know what I am capable of in softball, I am ready to focus my time and attention on developing other skills that I find more personally rewarding, skills and dreams that better fit who God made me to be.  

Foresters defy complacency by understanding themselves and seeking opportunities to grow that fit who they are. They can defy complacency in whatever they do — in English essays, lab experiments, and even in softball games — without being perfect at everything. Instead, they cultivate a sense of self-awareness and meaningful growth.  

Although I say that I am content to stay forever on the softball sidelines, I would step onto the field again if I was needed. But I can also admit that if I am the player you need, the situation must be pretty dire!  


Written by
Nicole Manges