An Open Letter to Our Son–The New Coach
today at 6:39 am
You have nailed it. One of your life goals, something you told us many years ago when you were childless and single was that at age 35 you wanted to be coaching your son or daughter in baseball. And now at exactly 35 you have been approved to coach H’s local rec league team. It will be some T-ball, some coach-pitch, and should be all fun. Your mother and I congratulate you and guarantee you that coronavirus and weather permitting, our spring will be filled with sunshine, sidelines, and sandlots.
I have one request. Be a good coach. Not necessarily a winning coach–at this level no one should be keeping score. Not a hard-ass coach–many of these kids are having their first experience in organized sports and they should learn that this is friendly competition for the fun of playing the game. Not a biased coach–H should learn immediately that Daddy is the coach for all the kids. And it goes without saying there should be no gender bias.
So what does being a good coach mean to me? Focus on the basic skills you can guide the kids in. Running, throwing, catching, and the idea that physical activity is fun and healthy. Let the kids know that athletics can be a good release from stress, not something that will add to whatever stress they will feel through adolescence and teen years. Let them know that getting a hit is great, but so is cheering a teammate (or a competitor) on a (Willie) Maysian throw or an (Andruw) Jonesian catch.
Emulate the coaches who had a positive impact on you as a youth. Remember also the ones who had you and your teammates in tears. Don’t be one of those coaches. And that youth-basketball coach we witnessed last month? The one who endlessly berated the teen-aged official and disrupted the game? Swear to yourself you will never be that guy.
Prepare yourself. Does the rec league offer training? Take in what they have to offer and filter it through your own sensibilities. Talk to any friends who have already coached and think about what they have to say. Find a good book or website that can guide you as you guide the youngest all-stars.
With no one counting runs, with no stats, and with no victories or losses, how will you know if you are a success? Take a mental snapshot of each kid at the beginning of the season. When the schedule winds down, ask yourself how many players have improved their basic skills since those first days. Ask yourself if you can identify one memorable moment from each child’s season. And be sure that you have shared those highlights, have shared them with everyone.
One more measure of your accomplishment: Next spring check the league rosters to see how many of this year’s players have registered for another season of the old hardball. If you have led them right, making sure each felt their 2020 season was fun and positive, they will all return for 2021.
And Mom and I will be there too. We’ll always have your back. Hit this one out of the park, son!
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