Occasionem Carpas-Leaders do this

It’s Monday morning in Middle Tennessee and I am still trying to wind down from an exciting weekend of baseball here at Vanderbilt University.  Most of you do not follow collegiate sports like I do, but the Vanderbilt Commodores are now in the sweet 16 of college baseball.  This is the third time in four years for the Dores to make it to the sweet 16.

The real point of this post today has nothing to do with baseball and it has everything to do with leadership and life.  Let me set this up and I think you will get the point.

Leaders are people who come into situations and are able to diagnose the options and then move forward with a solution.  In many cases a leader will have little input into the situation, but be thrust into something where they have an opportunity to succeed or fail.  History is full of men and women who chafe at the pressure situations, but this is a story about a leader, a young man, in fact two young men, who seized the opportunity, occasionem carpas, as the headline says, and made the best of it.  let’s get started.

Ro Coleman is not your ordinary college baseball player.  Ro has just completed his freshman year at Vanderbilt.  Ro grew up in Chicago and attended Simeon High School.  Ro stands out in a crowd not because of how tall he is.  He stands out because of the fact that he is 5 feet, 5 inches tall.  Most athletes from Simeon were at least a foot taller, especially the basketball players, and they are many.

Walker Buehler grew up in Lexington, KY and played baseball at Henry Clay high school.  When you think Kentucky you probably do not think baseball, you think basketball.  A certain university in Lexington is famous (or infamous) for attracting talent for short periods of time on the hardwood.  A baseball player from Lexington is not the norm.  Walker just complete his sophomore year at Vanderbilt and has had a stellar year with the Dores.

Vanderbilt played a game last evening against Oregon, the Ducks, who are best known for their fast-break style of football.  Their baseball is solid also and they are the type of team that keeps the pressure on non-stop.  Walker Buehler was the pitcher last evening and he seized the opportunity just like leaders do.  Walker took control of the game and gave his team an opportunity to win when the timing was right.  Many times leaders do not see the final outcome initially, but they do see that they can keep things in control, “set the table”, so that their teammates can find the right time for success.  Walker provided just that type of opportunity with his command of the game from the pitching mound.

That opportunity for success occurred in the bottom of the 9th inning.  Good teams support one another and this Vandy team did just that.  They loaded the bases and with one out they called upon one of their leaders, Ro Coleman, to deliver the final outcome.  Ro delivered and the celebrating began. 

There is more to the story, but here is what you need to learn from that episode:

  • Leaders support their teammates-they do not worry about the headline, but they do sweat the details and put their team in a position to win
  • Leaders go above and beyond the norm when the situation dictates the need-Walker did just that last evening
  • Leaders deliver in the tough situations-Ro did just that with his timely hit to win the game
  • Leaders are humble in accepting praise and give thanks to the right sources-Walker, Ro and their coach, Tim Corbin, were all quick to give thanks for their success and to also appreciate those they competed with
  • Leaders look ahead to the next opportunity-there will always be another game and those who get caught up “reading the headlines” of their own success will probably falter when the  next challenges rolls their way

Two young men, two totally different backgrounds.  Both proven leaders who did what was necessary, when it counted, for the success of their team.

Leaders also sometimes fail.  Oregon was no failure in this case even though they did not win the game.  I was humbled and impressed with their spirit even after the gut-wrenching loss. 

Here are a few other thoughts on leaders when they fail:

  • Leaders do not blame others when things don’t pan out
  • Leaders praise their teammates for what they did well
  • Leaders reflect and search for ways to be better when they fail
  • Leaders realize there will be a next time-may not be the same team, the same field, but there is always a next time

Leaders seize the opportunity.

Go forth and Occasionem Carpas today!