On a field in Williamspot, Pa., on Aug. 18, members of the Rhode Island Little League baseball team from Cumberland, R.I., knelt in the infield.
© Compass file photo
Compass reporter/photographer Nicholas Mercer.
Sobbing after a gut-wrenching loss to a team from Chicago that ended their Little League World Series and their season, many of the players still had on their orange and black helmets.
Their coach, Dave Belisle, knelt in front of them. He was faced with the near-impossible task of comforting a group of young athletes after a tight 8-7 loss.
Asking his players to raise their heads, the cameras at ESPN caught tears streaking down their faces and many of them in full sob.
Belisle measured his words and delivered one of the finest post-loss speeches you may ever hear. He was micâd up and his every word was captured. If you havenât seen it, the clip is worth the two minutes it takes to watch it.
Here is a snippet:
âIâm going to bring back with me, and the coaching staff is going to bring back with me, and you guys are going to bring back something that no other team can provide but you guys, and thatâs pride. OK? Pride. Youâre going to take that for the rest of your life, what you provided for a town in Cumberland. You had the whole place jumping, right? You had the whole state jumping, you had New England jumping, you had ESPN jumping, OK? Because you want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys who donât quit. They like guys who play the game the right way.â
Little league is big business and with big business comes undeniable stress. It is easy to forget that the players are only 12 or 13 years old faced with a world of stress over a baseball game.
The speech Belisle gave his players was a break from the norm. It was something all coaches should aspire to bring their players whether winning or losing.
It is also one of those moments that makes sports more than what happens on the playing surface.
A sport is one of those things that draws people together for various reasons. It gives people purpose when they might not have one.
It is an avenue for people to get their aggression out and express themselves in ways they canât normally.
It is also a place to teach humility and how to take the downs along with the ups.
Too many coaches will focus on the ups more than anything. Winning drives the games, it always has.
You canât, and wont, change that.
However, teaching how to take a loss and handle that loss with dignity is the true measure of a coach.
Life is full of the ups and downs. Youâre not always going to win. It is how you handle those defeats that defines you.
Slamming your stick on the ice, or breaking a bat over your knee isnât acceptable in life, why is it in sports?
â Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at email@example.com