Wanna know if you’ve got what it takes to be a great Little League coach? Take this quick 2-question quiz:
Question 1: It is a playoff game and the score is tied. The umpire forgets about a critical rule and makes a call that costs your team a run. Do you:
a) Fight for that run! Your kids need you to stand up for them. They want to win. Let that ump know that they missed the call. Call that ump out right there and then.
b) When the inning ends, grab the opposing coach (who is kind of a blowhard) and respectfully conference with the umpire.
(hint: the answer is b)
Question 2: You have a marginal hitter on your team who loves baseball sooo much. (For the sake of this example, we’ll call this kid Jack Nuckols.) As you walk with Jack to the plate for his at-bat, do you:
a) Find a way to motivate him. Bring the intensity. Tell him to focus and that this is his chance to make it happen.
b) Ask Jack: “Bunt? Swing? What are you thinking? It’s your call, how do you want to handle this?”
(hint: the answer is b again)
And with that, we now transition to:
An open letter to Coach K
A day may come when my son (or one of the 11 other kids on the team) may make the majors. And my son may look back and think: “I remember Coach K made me a better hitter.”
That’s a possibility, right?
Alternatively…a day may came when my son (or one of the 11 other kids on the team) will encounter a difficult disagreement with a senior citizen, or a policeman, or a veteran — and in spite of the tough situation, my son will treat that person with respect. My son may look back and think: “I remember how Coach K handled that umpire.”
That scenario seems much more likely. For my kid and for every single kid on the team — including your own.
It should also be noted, that your own parents were at the game. I hope they didn’t care that your team lost the game. But I do hope they noticed how you handled that umpire and were beaming with pride. They should have been.
I write this on a Sunday, the day after that game. Yesterday’s loss means that the team is one loss away from elimination from the playoffs. Which means tonight may be Jack’s last Little League game. I find myself awash with a sparkling and thick nostalgia, sweet sadness, and above all, gratitude.
Thank you, Coach K. It’s been a pleasure to have my son’s final season be with you. While I’m at it, thank you Coach Carl, Darren, Bill, Dan, Gary, Charlie, Lance. You’ve all nurtured something in my son and you’ve been central to years of memories that I cherish. Sitting on those metal bleachers, smelling that grass, hearing parents jabber and cheer.
When I think of my own childhood, the main setting I think of are the woods behind my house. I suspect Alex will think about the pool when he pictures his childhood. Jack? Jack will look back and think of this Little League field. And when Shani and I think back to the time when we were raising our kids, the Little League field will loom large there too.
It’s been a blessing.
Hope they win tonight.