I spent a lot of time this past weekend with fond memories of years ago....back when I coached youth baseball and softball.
It was 35 years ago when I coached my first team in 1988. Actually I coached two teams... softball for my daughter who was nine and baseball for my son who was five. I coached both kids for a decade until they needed someone who was better than me. Those years were so much fun. I was reminded about those first few teams this past weekend when I ran into one of the first players I ever coached. I was there to watch my 10-year-old grandson's all-star team play in a tournament in Hixson and I reconnected with this player as he watched his son play.
It had been a few years since I had seen him.... more than a decade ago when I was umpiring softball in Soddy Daisy. I met his son and told him that I was once his daddy's baseball coach. He looked with pride when I told him that his dad was one of the very best players I ever coached, which was true, and his dad said over and over, " I told you so."
I coached in Whitwell for almost 10 years and would even be elected president of the local Dixie Youth Association. Though it was a very tough job, it was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. Now, I sit back and watch my own son and daughter as they coach for my grandkids' teams. This summer I have both grandsons and one of my granddaughters playing ball and that makes for a busy several weeks. It's tough to have two or more playing at the same time at different locations and, since my wife and I can't be in two places at once, we do the best we can.
To me it was never about winning. It was helping to provide opportunities for kids to learn to play baseball and softball....to have fun and learn to compete as well as learn to be a good teammate. If we won it was fine, but learning how to accept defeat with class was also very important. When each season was over, I couldn't wait until the following spring when we would start things up again.
Coaching youth sports of any kind is so important. You have an opportunity to help mold the lives of kids who may not have the best home life or who may need a positive role model in their lives. I still cringe when I see or hear coaches who yell and scream at youngsters when they make a mistake. When those kinds of things happen, it's no longer fun for the kids and having fun while playing ball may be the most important thing of all.
We need good parents to coach in today's rec leagues and every year there is a new group of folks who take on this important responsibility. Some are good while others need to stay on the sidelines and allow someone else to coach their kids. At that level, it's not about winning or building dynasties. It's about building character and helping prepare young people for the lives that are ahead of them. There is nothing more important.
* * *
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com