I’m not a professional coach and never have been. I did receive a gift card from some parents after coaching youth softball one season, but I don’t think that affects my amateur status.
This is the first season I haven’t coached a Little League baseball or softball team since Kyle first started playing in the late ‘90s. I coached Quinn’s team last season in his final year of youth sports and after that, I was ready to move on. But this spring I have missed being out on the field with the kids and doing a little coaching-up. (I just don’t miss lugging all the equipment around and the road trips to Panora.)
So I think it was more for my benefit than Kristen’s or Quinn’s when I asked them Wednesday evening if they wanted to go up to the fields to work on their hitting on a rare off-night from any games. Sure, they could use some work on their mechanics, but I was eager to get out there to throw a little BP and do some “daddin’-up” of my own kids.
Daddin’-up is something I did less and less with Kyle and Kristen, and now Quinn, once they graduated to junior high and high school and professional coaches. Yes, I know a thing or two about the game, but I figured they were under the tutelage of people who do this for a living and any advice I gave to the kids might contradict what they were being told in practice. That didn’t (doesn’t) stop me from offering intermittent tips and having occasional “film sessions” (going over the details of their form using photos I take), but I tried (try) to keep it to a minimum.
On Wednesday I presumed that a few recommendations wouldn’t do any harm and I didn’t hold anything back. Besides, parents can say certain things in certain ways to kids that some coaches aren’t comfortable with. I was barking hard at Quinn about his stance and not finishing his swing, and when he complained that his thumb was hurting, I shouted back, “I don’t care!” Well, I had forgotten that he had sprained his thumb a couple of days prior in a Nerf basketball game (at least he was doing something constructive), so I felt bad and apologized.
I did some soft toss with Kristen because there was no way I was going to try to pitch underhand. (The only time I ever do that is in our back yard when I know the garage is there to stop all my errant attempts.) We talked through a few tweaks and I deemed her swing to be “fixed.”
Page 2 of 2 - I was anxious to see what the results of our mini session would be when the kids took to the fields yesterday. Quinn responded with two solid hits in two at bats in a win for his team in the morning. I was eager for a little recognition of my efforts, but when I suggest that to him, he responded with something like, “I hate to break it to you, but Kyle deserves the credit. He changed my swing earlier.” Oh, well. There was still Kristen. But last night she only swung the bat once in four at bats (she hit it hard!) while bunting twice and walking once. I did offer a quick bunting tip Wednesday, so I felt good about the sacrifices.
In the end, it’s not about any credit for me—the kids do all the work. I just feel good that they wanted to do the work and they let me tag along.
Todd Weber is an Iowa-based writer whose fiction and non-fiction stories and features have appeared in publications across the U.S. Most of his published work was as a music writer for weekly alternative publications. His interviews and stories involved artists ranging from Motley Crue to Merle Haggard.
An avid sports fan and football official, Weber has written his first book, The Fields of Fall, which tells the stories of the people and places that make Iowa high school football so special.