In the midst of a warm, spring baseball practice, I could hear my coach yelling, “Don’t be afraid to get dirty, that’s why your mom has a washing machine!” At 13 years old, our team simply got a laugh out of the statement, unwilling to look beyond its verbal façade. As time went on, I began to find that by making this subtle declaration, our coach was demanding that we give our absolute full effort every time we stepped onto the field, and that we play as if it is the last time we will ever do so. Although this belief was initially introduced to me on the playing field, it shouldn’t be applied exclusively to sports; this belief is also an extended metaphor for giving your full effort in everything you do in life. Like in the sporting world, life will always throw you seemingly insurmountable challenges, or “curveballs”, where success appears improbable. However, it is essential to look beyond all expectations and strive to give the utmost effort in all endeavors, which is why I believe in getting dirty.
This whole metaphorical idea of “getting dirty” was not something that was new to me the first time I heard it echo from my coach’s mouth. When I was growing up playing baseball, my father initially instilled in me the idea that giving everything I have on the field is something that would earn me respect from teammates and opponents alike. I was undersized throughout my childhood and I needed to give more than my full effort to keep up with the pace set by the bigger kids. I made a promise to myself that I would not come home from a practice or a game without getting my uniform dirty. In the game of baseball, having a dirty uniform is indicative of effort and hard work, and I wanted to be associated with those qualities at all costs. This wasn’t only because I wanted others to see me in this light, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could give nothing short of my best every time I stepped onto the diamond. Striving for this soiled look pushed me to play harder than ever before, which meant trying to advance that one extra base or diving for balls that before seemed not worth making an attempt at. If I failed, it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t try hard enough.
As I grew older and my baseball career gradually came to an end, I was slowly coming to the full realization that soon enough I would be playing my final game. I began to appreciate the way I was taught to approach the game growing up, never giving anything less than my all. I now knew that the most important part of this whole belief is not that I emerge from every situation as the victor, because that is an unrealistic expectation, but that my undying effort will put me in a favorable position. Continually resonating inside my head were my coach’s insightful words of wisdom, which, at the time, may have seemed like they were said for the sake of humor. But the more I heard them, the more I saw beneath the comedic overtone. That everlasting quote was a message of inspiration, an attempt to shift our team’s approach on the field in hopes that it would carry over to our everyday lives.