I never really wanted to coach softball. My baseball experience petered out toward the end of 8th grade, with the end of little league and the fading appeal of stickball games in the cul-de-sac on Grace Lane.
But then my daughter began T-ball in Kindergarten, grudgingly, and the team’s volunteer coached made no small noise about being voluntold for the position by his wife. So, not to beat my chest too much–this isn’t what this post is about–I stepped up. I gave him a hand. And, the next year, I when J was still too young for machine pitch, I volunteered again. Fearing I topped out what I had to offer these kids, I didn’t offer to be head coach of J’s machine pitch team. (This becomes a recurring theme through the years–I’m going to write a book entitled How to Succeed in Coaching Children through the Peter Principle.) Of course, I ended up being an assistant coach.
By the time J was aged into to the minors in 4th grade, I was drafted into the organization’s board to be groomed for commissioner, a position that I deftly sidestepped. Instead, I ended up helping coach my son’s team when another parent volunteer dropped out. The next summer, I was the softball minors coach and I had to reconstitute the team–begging kids and parents at times to sign up. Jenkintown has a problem keeping girls in softball. The high school doesn’t field a team, so the little league players all end up in other summer sports, like lacrosse. It didn’t help that the last coach was a bit of a hot head. So, I had to convince kids to play. There is no shame in admitting that I just don’t know the mechanics of pitching, so I found a few other dads to fill in the gaps in my ability.
It was a good team, and we had a decent season that year, which I entirely owe to Dave and Matt.
For the last two years, I’ve been Anthony’s assistant coach along with Matt. Anthony is a great guy and knows the rules of the game better than anyone I’ve met. He coaches with a sense for sportsmanship and the stern glares of a man who teaches high school science for a living, which he does. He loathed bushleague behavior like proud Americans once loathed the Commies. (Not fond of either bushleaguers or Commies, myself.) Practicing twice a week with the kids. Dragging my daughter out of the house to make it on time. Getting our butts kicked by teams two thirds comprised of travel players. It has been a good two years and now, as of this past Friday’s playoff game, it is over.
I’ll have my memories, but I can’t help get a little nostalgic. Some manly tears will be shed. My proudest moment is still watching J catch the first fly ball from the first at bat of the season. I remember each at bat from the first base coach’s spot. Not just J, but all the girls. More or less the same crew since Kindergarten.
J’s happy to be done with it. She loved the game, but never enough to see the point in really working for it. It was fun. She practiced bench cheers more than throwing, and never really understood why she didn’t play second. . Our girls had spirit, for sure, but never the skills like we acquired playing after school every day. A combination of too many activities and not enough greenspace in our quirky little town to compete for a playing spot, I suppose. For them, softball just became a thing to do until it stopped. None of our girls play on travel teams. It just doesn’t happen.
Coaching isn’t over. There’s B’s soccer team–another sport whose requirements by 4th grade have already surpassed my skills and experience. I was head coach last year, which was fine, but now we have a new team and I’ll end up being assistant, which is also fine. Still, I’ll miss softball. The cheers. The chatter on the field. Anthony’s frustration. Matt’s pep talks (“youse guys gotta get your heads outta your butts”).
I never really wanted to coach softball, but then I did.