For many years I have played and coached the sport of fast pitch softball. I have dearly loved the sport and the friendships I have made. My memories are very fond for the simple fact that I had three outstanding coaches in my sport and in my life: the Lord, my mother and my father.
I thank the Lord every day for giving me a talent and most importantly allowing me to give back my gifts to my students. I thank my mother for always standing beside me reassuring me after a tough loss or a negative parent’s comments.
I thank my father for all the time he spent teaching me the sport and most importantly teaching me that working towards a goal is far more important than the outcome.
But most of all, I thank all three of my coaches for the fact that I have learned the skills necessary for a lifetime…how to deal with BOTH success and failure and to have confidence in myself. Isn’t that what life is all about? Only a small percentage of life is what happens to you, but the biggest majority of life is how you deal with what happens to you.
Along the way I have had some disheartening stories come my way about our youth coaches. It frightens me to think that someday my son might play for someone like this.
I was at a clinic discussing practice organization and playing time with some local youth coaches and was astonished at the thought process of some of the coaches.
We were discussing pitching time on the teams due to the fact that there were teams with 4 pitchers. How would they ever come up with a rotation to satisfy all of them? I was going over some options to help out when one of the coaches pointed out the fact that my ideas were good in theory but would never work on his team (an 11-12 A team).
When I asked why, he mentioned that the only way his team would win ballgames would be if he threw his ace every time. I understood his concern, but for the long term benefit of his team, playing 90+ ballgames, it might be wiser to get the other pitchers some time in the circle in a game situation.
I continued to explain that eventually the other pitchers would lose their confidence in their throwing ability and when the time did come when the team finally needed another pitcher, the harder it was going to be for them to go out and throw effectively.
Likewise, the more times a pitcher is put into a game; the easier it was going to be for her to be successful. The coach replied, and I will quote him, “How do you expect me to win the championship if I don’t pitch my ace every game. Every game is a must win situation.”
The coach was obviously more concerned about his own record than the needs of his players. The players need guidance and someone to believe in them. Like it or not, the coach is a role model to his players.
The thoughts and feelings that this one coach puts into his team will remain there for life. They may not surface now or next year, but some where down the road, they will come out.
I usually see this in the pitchers that are great sideline pitchers, but aren’t much in the game. No one has ever had the confidence in them to put them into the game, and when they luck up to find a team that needs them or usually dad starts to coach for them, they freak out and have no confidence whatsoever. And believe me, one year away from their former team only begins to break the ice.
I can tell you from a coach’s point of view that when your daughter is trying out for middle school ball, high school ball, or even college ball there will not be one ounce of faith put into the fact that your daughter played on the 11-12 A Whoever’s and you won 80 ballgames this summer.
What I want to know is how are her skills and if she happens to be a pitcher, how does she throw in game situations. I do not care if you won 5 games or 80 games; YOU are the only thing I am interested in. Can you handle success and failure?
I say that for one reason only. I received a full scholarship based on my academic and athletic ability. I have pitched against the greatest players in our country, but what I remember most about my youth career is not the wins and losses.
I remember the lessons learned from working hard to earn a pitching position and the coaches I played for having faith in my ability even when I didn’t win a game. I have so much confidence in myself because along the way there were a lot of people that had confidence in me.
No I did not always play for the best teams or always win the biggest tournaments. But, we did work every year for a goal. I learned what hard work was about. I also learned that when I worked hard I was given the opportunity to be successful and no matter what the outcome, I was a good sport.
I believe it is time that we stood up for our kids. All any parent can ask for is a fair, ethical, honest coach who possesses a moral structure which gives every player a fair and equal opportunity.
All any player can ask for is someone to believe in her, give them an opportunity and be lead by example. In the long run, a positive experience in sports will help each player to maximize their potential in whatever enterprise they choose to pursue.