• Comment

Chris Gay: Don’t be afraid of coaching youth sports

Posted: June 18, 2017 - 1:52am

My kids gave me some Father's Day cards to open Friday night. Hallmark, this wasn't.

I'm not raising my children to be these sappy types. Instead, they're more likely to tell you a knock-knock joke. The world could use a little more levity these days.

The triplets and I were talking a few weeks ago about poetry. Hannah, my motormouth child, kept going on and on about something. I finally delivered some prose that went like this:

"Roses are red. Violets are blue. Shut up."

(Robert Frost's bones probably just diverged in his casket.)

So I opened up the Father's Day cards. They all had the same message: "World's Best Farter." Thanks, kids.

The cards reminded me of a conversation I had earlier in the day with a longtime friend of mine about fatherhood. He's a great guy, but what he told me didn't surprise me. He doesn't want to coach youth sports. Ever. The problem? Parents.

I understand. I'm currently coaching a baseball team at the Family Y for the fourth year in a row. I also coach Upward basketball at Warren Baptist Church - later this year will mark my fourth year.

Most of the parents I've dealt with through the years have been outstanding. I try to keep an open line of communication with them. Basically, I harass them with texts and emails. And if they have any issues, they know how to reach me.

Coaching youth sports is like swimming. Some people wade into the shallow end of the pool. Some dive right into the deep end. Others elect to sit on the side.

I dipped my toe into the coaching pool several years ago when I helped my son's T-ball team. I learned after a few weeks I wanted to be the head coach after our coach would cancel baseball practices if there was a stray rain shower at 2 p.m. during the week.

I'd be lying if I told you coaching has been easy and fun the entire time.

My baseball team looked like a bunch of zombies Monday night. We rallied to defeat our opponent, 6-4, scoring all our runs with two outs in the final inning.

We had one hit, a bunt single. I've coached five players for four years. Several others have been with me for three or two. Somewhere along the way, they all forgot how to hit - something we tried to correct at practice this week.

I first started coaching when these children were 8. Teaching hitting was an adventure - most of the kids looked like they were ballroom dancing when they swung the bat. It took awhile to correct their footwork. Our first game, we lost 18-10. Our second game, we lost by nine runs. Our third game, we got run-ruled, an embarrassing defeat.

In that third game, one of the kids - he showed up to about half the practices - started in right field and got two at-bats (strikeout, groundout).

I was later told his dad threw a temper tantrum and walked out during the middle of the contest. I was later told his mom told him soccer was his good sport anyway. Parents! This kid showed up at one more practice. I haven't seen him since.

A year later, I had a big, athletic kid on my team. He practiced with us several times. I thought he was going to be good, real good. Then, before our first game, his mom called. Her son wasn't going to make it to the game - or any games that season.

The reason? It was too hot. Mind you, our practices always started at 7 p.m. And it was baseball during the summer in the South. Why did she sign up her son? Did she think this was Alaska? Parents!

Another parent signed up her son for summer basketball during baseball season last year. After several weeks, this big kid who had attended several baseball practices and games went missing.
After not seeing this kid for a few practices, I asked if he was OK. Basketball practices, I learned, were held the same night as my team's practices - and basketball (an easier sport to play than baseball) took precedence. Parents!

So yes, parents can be difficult to deal with at times. But understand there's also a ton of good parents out there as well. I like the parents of the kids on my baseball team this season.

These are people who love baseball, who love watching their children play baseball - even when it gets hot. We may not all be alike, but I consider these parents and kids like family.

Don't let any fears about parents, stop you from coaching youth sports. Go for it. Think about the children. They're the ones looking for guidance, looking for role models. The world needs more active parents, especially more fathers playing roles in their children's lives.

It's easy to sit on the sideline and criticize. Don't do that. Go coach a team. Go help coach a team. Go lead the sign-up sheet for snacks and drinks. Get involved. The more you're there, the more your kids will appreciate it. And you don't have to be the perfect coach. I played baseball for 10 years as a youth, but I never pitched. Still, I've learned how to teach my players how to pitch. I may not be giving them the greatest instruction in the world, but at least I'm out there trying.

Trying is half the battle in life. Remember that as we celebrate Father's Day today. Creating a child is quick and easy. Being a father takes some time and effort.

Really, it's not difficult to be a somewhat decent dad. Have conversations with your children. Play board games with them. Let them listen to their music sometimes in the car. (We can't listen to Led Zeppelin every single hour.)

Be involved. And if your children are young, coach them in youth sports. Your children will appreciate for you doing so. And who knows? Maybe you'll get a "World's Best Farter" card, too.

 

  • Comment