Youth sports in America.
You never really know what to expect. Happy kids. Unhappy parents. Disgruntled coaches. Unorganized administration. Well, last week we had it all.
Jackson and I have a very simple philosophy when it comes to coaching 9- and 10-year-old girls' softball: Have Fun. This is what we try to instill in our young competitors. To this end, Jackson and I agreed that we should only practice a couple of nights a week, depending on how many games we play that week. We also agree that we shouldn't practice on Saturday or Sunday. God forbid that parents be forced to spend time with their children as opposed to pawning them off on strangers who just happen to be supervising a youth sports team. We also agree that we should keep things simple … just the basics. We aren’t going to try to turn your 10-year-old into Big-Leaguer over night.
Well, last week we had our first parental run in. We scheduled practice on Tuesday and Thursday with a game on Friday. We showed up at our usual time on Tuesday and practiced for about 30-45 minutes while storm clouds rolled into the area.
As we took a break from some fielding practice, I noticed lightning rip through the evening sky to our north. It was a good distance off, but I began to get a little concerned. Soon the low rumble of thunder rolled over us as another streak split the sky.
“Uh, Jackson,” I said. “I think we should quit.”
Another team was practicing nearby and yet another was waiting for our backstop. Those teams showed no signs of quitting because of a little lightening. I however, tend to play it safe around the forces of nature. I figure quitting practice a little early is far better than attending some 9-year-old's funeral simply because we wanted to make sure she could complete that throw to first base.
Jackson and I, along with a couple of parents, watched the clouds for a few minutes and decided it would be best to call off practice. After all, we only had five of our team members there anyway.
As Wednesday rolled around, Jackson and I discussed the weather forecast and its impending effects on Thursday’s practice. We received more than an inch of rain Tuesday night and were scheduled to get some on Thursday as well. Jackson and I made an executive decision to cancel Thursday’s practice and just encourage the girls to be at the game on Friday.
Apparently this didn’t go over well with at least one parent. It amazes me how ultra-competitive and stupid some parents can be. They think that if their child isn’t on the field for several hours every day with coaches berating them and pointing out everything they are doing wrong in an attempt to force them to get better, then their child isn’t properly benefiting from the program.
This, of course, goes against our philosophy of having fun. Heck, Jackson and I don’t even try to make the girls do every little thing correctly. We have a few things that we are focused on. We tend to think that if the girls at this age can do a couple of things correctly they will be a step ahead of the competition at the next level. Therefore, we focus on one or two things that we are trying to get our girls to do instinctively.
Well, one ultra-competitive overlord decided to pull his girl from our team. It’s a shame. She was a nice kid and she was having fun. We let her play the position she wanted to play even though we have other girls who could do a better job. The other girls, however, were happy playing other positions so we left this one where she wanted to be. Dearest mommy and daddy, however, felt that we weren’t doing enough to further her athletic career, so they called the league president and requested that their daughter be placed on another team. They specifically requested two teams, one of which we were scheduled to play on Friday night.
(Big Grin! You know where this is going, don’t you?)
Friday night rolled around. Due to the desertion and two other players not being able to attend for family reasons (divorce can really be ugly), we were left with seven girls. Jackson and I, however, were determined to get our girls a game. This is, of course, what they are here for.
The other team, coached by the league president, had no problem letting our team play with seven players. We had a full infield and only one outfielder who really enjoyed being the only player out there. She loves to run and is pretty good at it.
As mentioned in a previous post, we have been searching for a good pitcher and have found a real fire-baller who Jackson has worked with quite a bit. This girl can actually throw strikes … consecutively. That is utterly amazing for girls this age. Jackson has worked on her mechanics and at our last practice she was firing pitches on a rope. Some pitches even had a little movement on them which you never expect to see at this level.
We handed our pitcher the ball and lined up with our seven girls against their full compliment of players. Our outfielder chased down a couple of balls … our first baseman got a big hit … our third baseman made a great fielding play … and our pitcher mowed down their hitters.
In the end, our rag-tag little group of ballers walked away with a much-deserved 12-2 victory. And Jackson and I couldn’t help but grin.
Afterall, that’s good coaching.