It happens each spring. The emails about spring girls’ softball begin to trickle in. My youngest is still really excited about playing. For my 13 year old, though, the interest has begun to wane. This happens a lot at this age. As kids get older, they begin to focus on activities they are most interested in, and although she has some natural ability, she’s beginning to lose interest.
Each year, it happens the same way. I get an email from the league representative asking if I am interested in coaching. I say no. In the next couple of weeks, I get more emails asking if I’m sure. Then comes the guilt-filled tome that says that we really need you, there are 52 players signed up and only three coaches.
Last year, I said no. Too many activities; I have a job, I’m trying to start a business, publish a book, business travel; coaching 10-13 year olds is like herding cats. This year I agreed to coach, but only at the last minute when there was no one else. I carried the equipment, made up the lineup, patched up bruised arms and egos, and I had a blast.
We live in a pretty competitive environment where I come from, but having played, coached, and umpired on a number of levels for too many years, I had decided to coach from a perspective based on these three premises:
1. Have fun
2. Help each player to improve, regardless of their skill level
3. Teach the players to work together as a team to achieve a common goal
Now, I like to win as much as the next guy, but I won’t do it at the expense of any player, and many of the players and their parents have varying degrees of emphasis on the three points mentioned above.
I’m okay with that. I explain my philosophy to all the parents prior to the season, and I endeavor to stay true to this myself, fighting the competitive streak in me.
And it’s hard.
Last year, we came in eighth out of nine teams. We won the play-in game and took the first place team to the bottom of the last inning before losing with two outs and two strikes on the batter. I was in tears then, not because we lost, but because we had come together as a team and my players left it all out there on the field. Thirteen girls, six who had never played softball before, and they played the game of their lives. You can’t buy that feeling.