Lessons from Little League

HUSTLE!!!!I love baseball…love its guts and liver. Having boys, I have the opportunity to pass that love of baseball along to my little dudes, and I’ve taken advantage of that opportunity, coaching them for the last 8 years. I suppose the natural thing to do would be to extol the virtues of teamwork, sportsmanship, commitment to a common goal, and the bond between Dads and sons forged on the diamond. I suppose….

That’s the part you WANT, and in some ways (in doses) I’ve had very real & memorable experiences as a courtesy of my coaching experience. But there’s a catch…in order to coach your kid, you must be prepared to acquire a taste for sh*t. We can all feel safe in knowing that the next generation of assbags is being groomed and cultivated every Spring on the practice fields, sandlots, and ballparks everywhere. So you wanna coach? Consider this your primer, so at least you can say you’ve been warned:

~ Babysitter – You may be shocked to hear this, but some parents really don’t give two squirts about parenting their own kids. So baseball season is a built-in babysitting commitment allowing them to drop Jimmy off for 2 hours on a weekday, another couple hours on the weekend, and check the list of getting their kid “involved.” If you have 10 kids on your team, count on at least 4 of them being part of this group. Out of the 4, half will be pains in the ass (quickly you realize why they’ve been dropped off) who continually disrupt your efforts. The other half will have zero idea why they are wearing a glove. Let me be very clear about one thing – if your son is  over the age of 6 and cannot throw a ball, you Sir, are a disgrace. If your son thinks a proper batting stance is facing the pitcher while standing on home plate, you have failed as a father.

~ Daddy – I’m a great Dad. Really, ask my kids. You know why? Because they’re MY kids. A rec league baseball coach should not be your child’s disciplinarian and/or surrogate Dad. I recommend Ritalin, or perhaps an occasional paddling if your kid is a terror. What I will tell your son is this…”it might not be today or tomorrow, but at some point in your life this attitude will result in an ass-whipping you will never forget.” Please, Mom, don’t allow your son to grow up to be an a**hole.

To be fair, sometimes the problem IS the coach. You get your 10 kids, you try to teach them the great game, and you take your lumps for the 3 or 4 kids who are really, really into it. Then, you play competitive games….the former kids who were jackwagons in their own respective youth are now coaching kiddos who may not be properly versed in how to play baseball like a douche. As challenging as running a practice with 10 crazy kids may be, they universally enjoy game day. Unfortunately, as much as you’d like to think the relative importance of coaching 7 and 8 year olds in a baseball game resonates with your coaching counterparts, that doesn’t always happen. Be prepared:

~ The Screamer – this guy yells at the kids, yells at the umps (usually 14 year old umps), and may occasionally focus his wrath on YOUR players. Nuts, insane, asshat. Usually struggling with a failing marriage, job, or both, he’s going to be the boss SOMEwhere, why not in Little League?

~ The Jock – easy to spot, because he’s probably wearing cleats and coaching shorts. Oakley wrap-around sunglasses, does the one-arm clap (one arm stays motionless, the other one maniacally smacks down), and hell-bent on coaching his kids to the pennant. God help you if there isn’t a run limit or you’ll be on the wrong end of a double-steal in the 5th inning of a 30-2 drubbing. I hate this dude, I really do. 20 years removed from a flailing JuCo baseball career, his validation is winning at all costs. Perfect paradox? The most laid-back coaches I’ve observed are former pro-MLB’ers. Why? Because they love the game and realize the kids playing on their team are SEVEN.

I began this little diatribe with three words…I love baseball. I’m obviously a little jaded by my years of coaching my boys – not to dismiss the pride and pleasure it’s been to coach my boys and several other really good kids. If not for the 3 or 4 every season who get it….oy. One day I’ll be out of the coaching gig…my boys will get older, they’ll be on teams where more is expected, and I can blissfully enjoy observing from afar. But for the love of Pete, can we please try to keep the sport fun for just a little while? Wait until the boys are 10? 11? 12?

One bit of unsolicited advice – if you’re considering the noble vocation of coaching your little dude, repeat this mantra to yourself every time you take the field. “My son will NOT be a professional baseball player.” That tends to keep perspective nice and even keeled, and it might just allow you to enjoy the shrinking window of time when baseball should be fun.

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