This is my second year coaching nine to eleven year olds in the American pastime known as baseball. I learned so much last year. I’m not a rookie any more, but I’m still learning. They seem to be bigger lessons now. Deeper. And they apply to life, not just baseball. It’s weird like that.
These kids, boys and girls alike, are on the field because they want to play, because they’re looking to be a part of team, to have fun, and learn the game. They’re not competing for multimillion dollar contracts. They’re not competing for a first round draft pick. They’re not even competing for a golden glove. They want to hit the ball, run the bases, and perhaps a few of them are looking to get dirty sliding into home. Or second. Or first, even.
Give each of them their chance
Once you take winning and losing off the table, when it’s no longer an option, then the field is wide open. That kid who keeps asking to pitch, but has trouble throwing hard enough to get the ball all the way to the catcher? Give them a chance. At least then they’ll know there are 8 other positions they can try. That kid who has never played baseball before asks repeatedly to be the catcher? Let them armor up and try catching. So what if they make a better goalie than catcher, at least now they know it’s not as easy as it looks. And outfield sucks. The ball is either never hit out there or when it is, you have run to go get it. UGH! Most worstest position, ever!
It’s not always to go your way
Sometimes the umpire does a phenomenal job and sometimes you’re pretty sure Stevie Ray Wonder could have done a better job. Part of our job as coach is teach respect for the other team and for the umpires, so we say nothing. That pitch was at eye level but called a strike? So be it. Just be ready to swing at it next time. You got called out when you were safe? I’m sorry, but we don’t have instant replay. We’ll get ’em next time. This is where we learn “it is what it is”. Arguing is disrespectful. We can’t change the umpires, but we can change our attitude.
It’s not always fair
The kids just want to play ball. So when we showed up to a game with 12 players and the other team had just 6 we didn’t want to cancel. The eighteen kids who showed up would have been disappointed and no one would have gained any experience from that. So we asked if anyone would be willing to play for the other team (they were a team from our town so most of our team knew the other team). Three were willing and that made it nine versus nine. Fair. Then the other team won. With our players! Can you say frustrating? I can. The kids had fun, though. Isn’t that what counts? UGH… I guess so…
Even a rookie can surprise you
Our team this evening was comprised of nine players. Six of them were first year players. Several of them made great plays in the field to get us some outs. They were all swinging the bat to get hits. One nearly hit a homerun (he was tagged out at home). Just because they’re the underdog, just because they’re not expected to perform well, doesn’t mean they’ll live down to that expectation. With just the right piece of advice, or just the right timing, or just the right attitude, they can make the smallest hits into the biggest deals. When given the chance, they can end a losing-by-15 game with laughter.
While the kids are learning about baseball, us coaches are learning about life. Sometimes it’s all home runs. Sometimes it’s nothing but strike outs. Usually, it’s a little of both. We just hope for more home runs and fewer strike outs. We give it our best swing, our best throw, and make the best of it.