The ACT under-14 boys indoor cricket team headed to the National Championships in Melbourne with expectations tinged with reality.
After all, the side had only been together for two months and quite a number of the players were around 12 years of age. In essence, they were a young team and a new team up against the more seasoned powerhouses.
Optimism quickly turned into reality as the championships progressed.
Six games into the titles and they hadn’t won a match.
The team lost some games with big scores against them. But they turned up time and time again, only to be beaten.
Their last match in the pool section was against the Victorian number two side. Again there was optimism. Again they went down.
The top three sides went into the finals with the remaining four fighting for a place in the semi-finals. Needless to say, the young ACT side was in the bottom section of the table.
They then lost their next two games. They had lost eight matches in a row.
Undeterred and bolstered by the spirit in which they had played throughout the tournament, the ACT headed into the final game against the Victorian number two side.
Batting first, the ACT made 105; 20 more runs than their previous best. In response, the Victorian seconds levelled the scores with one ball to be bowled.
You can imagine the scene. There was plenty of noise created by the stomping in the stands on the aluminium seating.
With palpable tension, the final ball was bowled and hit by the Victorian batter. They ran through for the one run needed.
The Victorian team had won by one run and they duly celebrated.
The ACT players, in unison, slumped to the ground. Another loss.
They were heading home winless.
But another chapter in this story was about to unfold as the Victorian batter threw his bat in the air, carried away with the emotion of the win.
The rules of indoor cricket clearly state that throwing a bat in the air incurs a five-run penalty.
The penalty was enforced. The ACT team had won.
Heartache quickly turned to jubilation.
The Victorian batter, on realising the consequences of his actions, was inconsolable.
ACT coach Phil Marchant had mixed feelings about how they won.
“I thought we’d lost. You never want to win that way. It was bittersweet but I was stoked for the kids, knowing they had won a game. Nobody gave up. I was so proud of them.”
Phil was also keen to ensure the life lessons on offer to his players weren’t lost in the moment.
He gathered his players around, encouraging them to go over to the Victorian batter, pat him on the back, congratulate him for how well he played and commiserated with him.
“It’s important to learn how to handle defeat and success, also understanding that there is somebody on the other side who may have lost.”
Phil is confident this group of players will be successful and benefit from the experience.
It’s a great life lesson that sport readily gives.