The Coach's Honor
In mid-April, I received a text from a close friend, who is also a mom to one of my players of 8 years. She noticed, while doing the household laundry, that I had coached her son 5 out of the last 7 days, at least one day in the rain (hence the laundry realization...). She wanted me to know how much she appreciated what I do for the kids. I, honestly, hadn't realized that I was on the field so much that week.
Do you know what I DID notice? How happy I was! We had gotten creamed in our first game that week by kids much larger than ours, but I was still in a great mood! That's what coaching does for me.
While I have plenty of stories to share about frustrating experiences while coaching, I have even more stories to share about the joy that coaching brings to my life.
In my first season, coaching t-ball (picture below), I had no expectations for "success". My main goals were to get the kids out on the field, to help them learn AND love the game. While I was happy to celebrate a player who made contact with the ball, without knocking over the tee, I was even more happy when the player knew which way to run to find first base (even if they still had the bat with them when they got there! LOL!).
For the two seasons after t-ball (5-6 year olds), it was "coach pitch" in the Peewee Division, where a coach would underhand toss the ball to our own players at bat. A goal for our Peewee team was to make sure the player closest to the batted ball was the ONLY player to get the ball. My favorite Peewee play, though definitely not the most effective, was a great hit by an opposing team player that made it to our outfield. Our right fielder got to the ball quickly, and decided that the best way to handle this feat was to belly flop onto the ball. A number of the other fielders thought that was a great idea, too, and piled on top of the right fielder. No out was made that play, but gosh there lots of giggles!
In the "Pony" Division (7-8 year olds) kids pitch to their own teammates. During a pre-season practice we talked about who wanted to pitch, and what the players' feelings were. A bunch of kids were excited to play "real" baseball. But, a number of players were worried and nervous.
I asked what would make them less nervous, and a "class-clown" type of kid offered that he would be less nervous if the pitcher was wearing a mustache, or a wig. Well, kid. You've got something there.
In the first game of the season, all of our players wore stick-on mustaches, and I wore a wig! I brought extra mustaches, and the opposing team was happy to join in the fun!
In our Cub seasons ( 9-10 year olds) we explored the steal, and became (arguably) the best base runners you'll see on the Prospect Park Baseball Fields any day! By Bantam, our base running was extraordinary, and opposing coaches and players either tried to emulate us, or we frustrated them to no end.
COVID gave us an abbreviated Super-Bantam season. And now, we're in the Grasshopper division, on a full-size baseball field, pitching from the full 60 foot, 6 inch distance, with "live ball" rules, balks, dropped third strikes, and infield fly ball rules.
No matter what division we're playing in, or what the rules are, it is my honor to meet my players where they are, developmentally, both physically and emotionally. So, while the parents of my players often thank me for what I do for their kids, I hope they all know how sincerely I mean it when I tell them how honored I am that they have provided me the opportunity to work with their kids on this amazing journey. It's pure joy, even when it's topped with some anxiety!