The Harshest Words

I’ve had ideas piling up for things I want to blog about … and that list will have to wait once again…

I came across today’s “daily prompt” … and it really intrigued me, so I’m going with it:

Daily Prompt: Sad But True

by michelle w. on October 22, 2013

Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’e ever gotten. Does it still apply?


I had to think for a bit about this one, I wasn’t intrigued by the prompt because of some memory that immediately jumped into my head.  I was intrigued because there wasn’t one.  I really had to rack my brain for a truly harsh criticism that was completely true (don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of criticisms.. it’s the combination of harsh and accurate that makes it difficult).

I keep coming to one memory, one criticism, one moment that I believe truly altered the path of my life (probably for the better).  This criticism had many points that, in retrospect, were true.  I still believe however, that they were completely overstated and the entire thing was probably a bit harsh for the situation… here goes.

I played baseball for much of my life, and I was pretty good at it.  I was lucky to make multiple all-star teams while playing “Little League” and while I don’t think I would ever have gone pro or anything like that… I was a solid player.  I knew I was good enough to play high school ball, and upon entering Flanagan Highschool I was looking forward to it.  Going through workouts and practices prior to tryouts everything seemed to be going to plan, I was having a blast.  We would take private lessons with the coaches (which i loved!), and I would dance around to the cadence of the band who was practicing nearby, when it was my turn to wait.  While I could play baseball rather well, I wasn’t in the best condition; I was soft-bodied and couldn’t run distance to save my life.  The coaches, as part of our conditioning regiment, would make us run “the Falcon Mile” (it was more than a mile!).  The route was around the entire high school (I went to a big school) and the track.  The caveat was the track, each side of it had massive bleacher sets, and we had to go up and down each row as part of the run.  The funny part is, looking at this run now, and being a runner, this course would be cake.

Well during these runs, everybody hated the entire thing, but no part was more vile than the bleachers.  My fatass also got the worst shin splints imaginable (until I started running minimalist and didn’t transition to it properly).  I would routinely see the juniors and seniors cut sections of bleachers (i.e. run up halfway and turn around)… the one time I did it I got caught.  This is where is got nasty..

Upon finishing the run, the JV coach, Eysman was his last name, told everyone to run it again… except me.  While everyone was busy re-running the falcon mile, he tore into me.  He told me he saw me skip half of a bleacher and proceeded to call me a “cocky piece of shit” and telling me I was “fucking lucky he would let me tryout”.  Those are the two lines, that 11 years later, still stick with me.

To expand, I was fifteen years old, and admittedly I had a lot to learn back then.  Maybe I did come off as cocky, but I just enjoyed being on the field, and I wanted to always have as much fun with it as I could … if that makes me cocky than so-be-it.  

To finish the story, I tried out and didn’t make it, my world was completely crushed.  I didn’t touch a bat or a ball for a year.  

The next year, there were new coaches and a chance for a fresh start.  I worked my but off to refine what skills I had left after a year off and I made the team.  I would be on the team that year and the next, and be a part of the 2005 State Championship Team.  However, I was never the same player.  Yogi Berra said “Ninety percent of baseball is half mental”, and he could not have been more right.  I had lost my mental edge for the game, I had lost all confidence in my abilities.  While I could physically play the game, I didn’t have the head for it anymore.  I ended up not playing baseball my senior year, and focusing all of my attention to academics, in turn looking only for colleges and universities that would offer me a solid education, not a spot on the field.  Without all of those happenings, I don’t know if I would be where I am now, and I can guarantee that if I was, it would have been by a totally different path.

I look at that criticism, and while I would never talk to a 15 year old kid like that, some of the messages behind it held some weight.  Maybe I was having too much fun, and while I shouldn’t have cheated on the run, it shouldn’t have led to that explosion by him.  I was really only cheating myself, and every time I have thought about cutting a corner or giving up on something I have gone back to that memory to get myself to push through and persevere.  I’m sure that the piece of shit Coach Eysman has no idea how his words have continued to make me push myself.  I will never let some asshole be able to say something like that to me again.

I like to think that these criticisms, whatever parts of them were true, aren’t true anymore.  I still try to be a confident and fun individual, someone who others can look to, but I try to find a balance between that side of me, and the side who can tighten the screws and get shit done when I have to.  I am definitely not as mentally weak as I was at 15, if someone berated me like that now, regardless of who it was, I wouldn’t run and hide, I’d push on and prove them wrong straight away!


About mdnichol87

Marine Biologist studying towards a Master's in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter.
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2 Responses to The Harshest Words

  1. twandrum says:

    Ouch! While skipping half a bleacher was clearly not a good choice, the way that coach talked to you pisses me off. Let me at’em! The interesting thing is that you learned what shortcuts lead to. What a great example this blog serves to the fact that obstacles like not making that team, can break you if you let them. They can also inspire you to do better. It has shaped you into the person you are and probably taught you not to be cocky. I doubt that you were in the first place. I love using you as an example for my students, so you can’t be all that bad. haha

    • mdnichol87 says:

      Thanks Big T! I totally agree, looking back, skipping the bleacher was not a good idea. It’s almost like a metaphor for life and not taking shortcuts when things get hard or painful. Not making the team did break me initially, and greatly impacted my future life track. I think the main thing I learned was to spin negative situations into something positive, and being able to build yourself up after you’ve been burned to the ground. I don’t know if I was cocky, whether I was or not… something I was doing rubbed him the wrong way I suppose. I’m happy that you can use me as an example for your students, I can’t tell you how proud it makes me feel when you tell me that. I want to be someone that people can look to for a good example. Though I’m definitely not the perfect person and I have definitely made my fair share of mistakes … I always try to come out as a better person better than I went in. 🙂

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