Back in the late 80’s or early 90’s ( I think), I was home for the summer because of business issues. I was reading the sports pages of our local paper and I saw a small section in that paper that indicated volunteer coaches wanted for a Babe Ruth club in a neighboring community. I menition it to my Mrs. and she suggested that I spend time away from what I was doing and just have fun that summer. As usual, she was right on and it was one of the best things I have ever done.
I called the phone number and talked at some length to a man who was going to be the head coach. He asked if I could stop by the field where they were meeting and talk. I did. That summer I volunteered to be a pitching coach for a 15 and older Babe Ruth club. I also witnessed one of smartest men I have ever seen, handling a ball club – amateur or professional. He fielded just enough to make the club work, so his tryouts were really a formality. After which, he had parents and players alike in a group and this is how he started the season.
(as best as I could remember)
“Welcome to the team. I, along with my coaches, will help you develop your baseball skills. We will show you what’s necessary to play the game, both as individuals and as a team. Neigther I nor any of these coaches will win or loose a baseball game. It’s up to you to decided that. If you are here just to have fun, while others are here to win, then that’s up to you to work that out. You’re the ones with the ball in your hands, the bat on your shoulders, the spikes on the field – not me, not these coaches, and not your family. Everyone will play, but at different times. I, as your head coach, will make that final decision. If there is anyone who has a question about what I just said, speak up now. “
He waited a long time, in silence, then slowly questions started to come around – espcailly about the playing time for players. To his credit, he
directed every question right back to the players and parents. I remember this question in particular –
Question:“How much time playing is a kid going to get?”
Answer: “ok, let’s take a vote. How many want to see equal time for everyone regardless of the score - win, loose or draw?”
Not one hand went up.
This coach now had a sense of the direction of this club by virture of every parent and player present. No arugments later on, no cry and moans about how fair or unfair, no blame games.
He also went on to set the stage for his role, and the other coaches, in all this.
“If you want me to coach to win every single game that a baseball team in this league will play, then take you kid home. Because from what I see, I can get a better pool of talent somewhere else. So remember, I and these coaches standing in front of you will show you how to play the game – it’s up to you players to play it, your parents to get you here on time, well rested and ready to go. Do we have a problem with any of this?”
Again, dead silence.
That summer I have to say I forgot just how much fun amateur baseball could be, for that age group, 15 and older. (I’d never do it again- but) I saw young boys grow into and mature into young men. Every coach took their turn complimenting every single youngster on the field, not criticizing. I saw youngsters and their parents talk, not confront each other after every game – regardless.
The best part of it all, I learned more about coaching pitchers, and even more about myself.
I gotta admit, that Mrs. of mine is one smart lady.