It’s almost over, my last Little League season. Well, my son’s last season.
See, I’m his coach. After this season, there’s no more Little League – for either of us. And I’m super pre-sad about that.
A rocky start to coaching
I reluctantly started coaching in the fall of 2012. I didn’t necessarily want to do it, or think that I’d like it, but I played pick-up soccer with a few guys who were involved in running the league my son signed up for, and when they were looking for another coach, I was an easy target.
So I Googled and YouTubed some soccer coaching stuff, and set out for what would become my favorite life experience ever: coaching my son’s and daughter’s teams.
Mistakes are part of the process
I met my team of 1st and 2nd graders and immediately made my first mistake within seconds of starting. I thought it would be cool to let the children come up with their own team name.
That spiraled out of control quickly, and before I could wrestle back control of the situation, we had become the Rock Hawks.
I would go on to make 2,438 more mistakes over the coming years.
The best of days
Since then, coaching the kids has really been my favorite thing to do ever, at least favorite thing to do over an extended period of time. Obviously, specific moments of life have been better, like witnessing my kids being born, and watching pretty much any of the Madea movies.
And I probably could have made better (or worse?) decisions to alter the trajectory of my high school and college years.
But overall, I haven’t had a more enriching, meaningful experience than getting to spend time with the kids on the court/field.
Part of that is the natural highs and lows of sports.
I wasn’t just spending ordinary time with the kids; I was a part of some thrilling victories and crushing defeats. I understand that wins and losses in youth sports are a little too important to some people, but it sure was fun being on the field for Nate’s clutch penalty kick to send us to the championship, Rylee’s buzzer beater, and my son’s first homer over the fence.
But the lows have value too
The lows are equally memorable, and important. My son rarely gets emotional. Frankly, he and most of his buddies don’t seem to notice much of anything even if you’re speaking directly at them. I randomly sprinkle in the words, “Fortnite” and “bedtime” just to get them to pay attention to what I’m saying.
But get these same boys on the pitching mound with an umpire who they perceive to have made a bad call or two, and these otherwise vacant boys turn into a hot mess.
Just the other day during a game, I went out to the mound to calm my son down after he walked a couple of kids, and he blurted out that it was the umpire’s fault and it wasn’t fair and he was a jerk!
I said that wasn’t true, but even if it was, you have to learn to deal with it – did Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke start bawling when the same thing happened to him the previous night? He said, “no, but he’s a man!”
Always a good reminder. They are just kids.
I’ll get a bunch of my time back
Sports has given me a disproportionate number of these kinds of loaded experiences. When I email my dad and brothers back home, I usually tell them about the latest sports event, not about how I crushed a jog this morning, or how our family recently started watching Survivor together, the CBS TV show that peaked in popularity during the Clinton administration.
Not only that, but sports has taken up an increasingly significant amount of our time for the last few years. With practices, games, and tournaments, we’ve gradually gone from having a busy little Saturday to having no free time whatsoever and eating at Raising Cane’s more than at the house.
When I officially hand the kids off from my teams to club and high school teams, I’ll get some of that time back, as I won’t have to attend practices anymore. But it’s not worth the trade off. The view from the dugout is the best seat in the house.
The end is in sight
Pretty soon, I’ll be watching games from the stands. I’ll be cheering for the kids, but they might not even hear me, or notice that I’m there. When they cross home plate after rounding the bases, I’ll be looking on from a distance instead of being the one to give them a high five or a hug.
And not too long after that, there won’t even be any practices to take them to, and there won’t be any games to attend.
I’ve had the time of my life watching them play. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when it ends.
I do know one thing: this time, when the last game is over, I’m going to need someone to come out to the mound and calm me down, because I’m going to be a hot mess.