Trying out the Coach Thing – T-Ball

by MyDadBlog on March 19, 2009

in Baseball,Sports

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Seriously, that's not me...

Seriously, that's not me...

The season is upon us – the season of the jockstrap!  Well, not sure if my 4-year old needs one just yet, but we were at the sporting goods store picking him up a glove and bat for T-Ball and inevitably, there was a father donning the cup and jockstrap over his face saying, “Luke, I am your father” as his wife looked on in disbelief.   None of the other Dads judged him; we’ve all been there before.  There’s something about the jockstrap that just brings out the innovative spirit in boys and men…but I digress…

Kevin is my first son and he’ll be 5 soon, so he’s eligible for T-Ball this year.  One of the things I always look back fondly on is my baseball years.  My father had coached me and in retrospect, I pretty much took him for granted, which I anticipate from my children as well.  I recall being the kid who hit last in batting practice and didn’t always get the cool positions and attention during practice because my father spent plenty of time with me outside of practice, be it hitting balls to me, pitching to me, or teaching me how to pitch.  Meanwhile, there were kids on our team who either didn’t have a Dad or didn’t have one that paid any attention to them, so my Dad became the father figure of sorts. 

Now, I’m not out to be anyone’s father figure, I have my hands full now and I’m not always the winner of “Father of the Year” myself, but this this coaching assignment (assistant coach to be precise – you need to earn points from prior years of volunteering in order to be the head coach) has me looking forward to time spent with my son – seeing him grow, seeing his confidence built and his character honed by sportsmanship. 

Practice With Dad #1

I took him to the field we’ll be practicing at for some one on one the other day.  In typical fashion, the primary objective for Kevin was to find pinecones.  Eventually, I enticed him to come over to the field and start working on hitting off the tee and catching the ball.  After a few minutes of that and repeated questions about when we could go to the slides, I relented and said, “Good job Kev, we’ll do some more this weekend”. 

Practice With Dad #2

We didn’t make it there over the weekend due to the weather, so I took off from work a bit early and took him to the field earlier this week.  I had attended a coach’s clinic this weekend and picked up a few good tips on getting the little guys started and how to teach them.  So, I employed some of these tactics and within a few minutes, he was hitting the ball really well and catching grounders.  Just as he started to really get it, nature hit.  He screamed, “Daddy, I have to go”, grabbed his groin, ran in a circle and peed all over himself.  He was quite distraught and said he wanted to go home.  He hasn’t peed his pants since he was younger, but I guess with all the excitement, he forgot to go.  So, that was practice #2.  Next up, practice with the team for the first time on Saturday.

What Kind of Coach Will I Be?

What I remember about my Little League days is that my father always played every kid a few more innings than the minimum 2, no matter how bad they were.  He never showed me any favoritism and in fact, it was usually the opposite.  I ended up getting to play All-Stars each summer and many of the other kids didn’t make it; I didn’t need the extra attention or opportunities.  What still bothers me to this day is a conversation we had during that last fateful season.  As my competitive spirit started to manifest itself more prominently, prior to the last season I’d be playing in the 13-year old league, I actually asked my Dad if he’d mind not coaching that year.  It was a seemingly odd, but honest and blunt question.  When he looked a little bewildered, I explained to him that I appreciated everything he’d done for me and all the great times we’d had, but this year, for the first time – I wanted to win.  My father didn’t coach us to win.  He coached us so that every kid got to feel like a part of the team every game.  Every kid had an outlet from whatever existence they muddled through in the classroom or at home.  Every kid was an equal.  It didn’t really strike me at the time that it may have hurt his feelings and though he never showed it, I’d never had the guts to bring up the topic again. 

As I’ve grown up and moved on to a new phase in life, I’m not the ultra-competitive type and if there’s one person in the world that I emulate the most; it’s my father, perhaps even more so now that he’s gone.  I do wonder what sort of coach I will be though and how my sons will recieve my even-handedness and focus on character and teamwork over winning, because I know that the apples don’t fall far from the tree. 

I’ll be waiting for the dreaded conversation when my son asks if it’s OK if he plays on Jonny’s team next year because they win every year and I don’t coach that way.

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