Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A season apart

I suddenly realized that it has been a while since I have waxed eloquent … or expectorated profusely … upon the annals of the Internet. I guess you could say that I have been a little busy with my class work and coaching softball. And my job really gets in the way of the important things.

Anyway, softball is going great. Our little troopers are 6-1-1 with another big game tonight. Somehow we have managed to work our way toward the top of the league standings. I’m not real sure how this has been accomplished because Jackson and I don’t do a whole lot of coaching. Or at least it doesn’t seem that way.

Jackson has worked diligently with the pitchers and when our girls are on, there is nobody in the league that is any better. As for my role, I’ve determined that I am more of the sports psychologist. I take it upon myself to keep the team loose and focused.

We have two really good pitchers, but they tend to get a little tight when they realize there is another team waiting to hit the ball. It’s amazing how seriously they take the game. You can see the tension on their faces. They don’t want to fail. When they don’t do something exactly perfect, they look at us with big questioning eyes waiting for us to impart wisdom that, quite frankly, isn’t always there. We don’t always have the answers for why the pitch isn’t flying directly over the plate.

Our standard line is to just relax and have fun.

“Karli,” I ask, “Why are you so tight? There is no pressure out here … we’re just going to make you run extra laps if you don’t throw strikes….. Victoria, pretend that’s me behind the plate and pitch like you did in practice the other day when you were trying to hurt me.”

Our team has an interesting dynamic. We live within a predominately Hispanic society. Only two of the seven teams in our league have white coaches. Ours and one other. Of course nobody can stand the coach of the other team because he is a real pain in the rear. He is the type of guy who takes it ultra seriously. His team is there to win and nothing else is acceptable.

To say the least, his girls really don’t have that much fun. They are scared of getting yelled at if they do something wrong. Heck, the last time we played him, he yelled across the diamond at his assistant coach, a high school girl, because he thought she did something that she didn’t do. He spent the whole time complaining about how the umpires were cheating him and about how bad our girls were. We won 8-1.

We get him again tonight and I hope I just enter the game with the right attitude. I want to beat him so bad, but I have to realize that this is not about me or Jackson. This is about our girls having fun and playing hard. If we lose, so be it. Just as long as our team did its best, that is all that matters.

Now, as far as our interesting dynamic is concerned. Like I said the majority of the league is Hispanic. There a few white girls on the pain’s team, one of whom is his daughter. She is just the sweetest kid in the world. After our last game she told my wife, who was her third- and fourth-grade teacher, that she wished she played for our team. That, my friends, is a tragedy. But she saw how our girls were having fun while she and her teammates were constantly under pressure to be perfect. There is no doubt her team is very talented. They may have the most talent in the league. Their problem is that they are too uptight … a reflection of their coach’s attitudes.

Of our 11 girls, six of them are white three are Hispanic and we have the only two black girls that I have seen in the league. We had another Hispanic girl, but her parents pulled her off our team after the first game. Jackson and I got the distinct feeling that they would rather have their child playing for a Hispanic coach. That is perfectly fine with us, but it was interesting to be on this side of discrimination.

I think the cultural mix on our team is great. All of our girls get along and there are no preconceived notions or expectations placed on each other. Our girls are great, and they are smart and have a good understanding of the game.

I have often said that coaches receive way too much credit and way too much blame for how their team performs. I firmly believe that and this experience has verified that notion. There are times in the field that our girls constantly make the right decisions about where to throw the ball, what base to cover or who should be the cut-off on a throw from the outfield. These aren’t things that Jackson and I have spent much time covering in practice, but these kids are really making us look good.

It will be interesting to see how the season turns out. We have four games left, prior to the post-season tournament. I would love to see our girls win the regular season and the tournament, but I know that will be extremely difficult. The great thing about kids at this age is that they are visibly better every time they take the field. The pitching is better, the hitting is better and the fielding is better, so who knows what will happen when the teams meet for the tournament.

However, when it is all said and done, I just hope that our girls can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had fun. After all, isn’t that what sports are all about?


SpookyRach said...

Finally, a new entry!

This stinkin' playin' a game every single dang night has got to end.

Lace Wells said...

Just think...during the cold winter evenings we will miss those hot softball games we went to every night for one week. The drama, the balding mullet, the unwashed shin guards, and hearing..."batter..batter...swing!"It is so cool to see my girls in a different setting than the classroom.

valbecca demooreney said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog! I would like to sell you softball coaches' insurance. This is to protect you from any lawsuits that sadly could be brought against you for just telling a child..."way to go.."

If you are interested you can reach me at....

little david said...

Way to go, Jonboy. I think that you and Jackson are pursuing the right course.

Jackson said...

Man, it was a great season wasnt it? It was a true blessing to just be able to work with these girls. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was give that "End of Season" speech. I would gladly take "most" of these girls against any team at any time.