On Coaching Little League

leagueAm taking a break from tech posts to talk about what’s been keeping me really busy lately – which is coaching the Palmera Green Rams, one of four teams here in Palmera Heights composed of 14-18 year old boys (I’ve taken to referring to them as ‘my boys’ to my gf’s consternation).

This is probably my 3rd ‘serious’ stint as a coach, the first of which was for my own team back in College, when we decided to join quickie tune up leagues outside the official league and our coach wasn’t available. The 2nd and 3rd times were for teams in the more recent past, where I coached alumni squads in some invitational leagues.

All three were mostly cakewalks. Everyone already knew their place and I just concentrated on substitutions and time-outs. Not that that’s necessarily easy, in fact the art of calling subs and time outs is exactly that – an art, and can pretty much turn a game in any direction. But as for the players, we were all mostly my age and it was a simple case of giving orders, (and since we were ‘peers’, getting ignored sometimes).

But coaching kids – this is new for me, and to be honest, it’s stressful.

For example, I’ve got my star player, a 16 year old 5’11 monster of a scorer and ball handler, and just like the stereotype, a little bit full of himself. I notice I tend to point out his weaknesses and criticize him a great deal. Then I’ve got my slower developers, who are just getting the hang of the game and team play. I notice I tend to praise them a lot, hoping they’ll gain more confidence.

Throughout I ask myself several times : is this what my former coaches used to feel? How the hell did they get through it?

I realize it’s becoming stressful because it’s a fish out of water situation. I’m mostly unsure about what to do or say, hence I tend to doubt myself, and once you do that you’re less likely to produce results.

That plus the fact that these kids hang on to every word I say, something I’m wholly unused to. In previous situations, I’d yell and scream till I had my way. But for these kids I catch myself, wondering how it would affect them, always wary I might be doing too much, or too little, or am not being effective at all.

At any rate, being out of one’s comfort zone is something I’ve gotten used to, and in fact welcome because just like the cliche, if it doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.

I want these kids so much to love the game like I do. If they’re feeling anything at all like I (vaguely) remember how I felt about it at the age they’re in now, I know it’s anything but lovable.

The sport, (or any sport for that matter), and the people who comprise it constantly challenge you physically, mentally and psychologically. You want to win so hard and so much, but it asks you to sacrifice twice as much and twice as well. How do you weigh one with the other? What do you sacrifice and what do you pursue? How do you make yourself a better player? How do you get in teams? How do you gain respect? How good / bad am I? Is that important at all?

These are the things all my coaches taught me. Not all at the same time, mind you, but eventually and pervasively, and made an imprint on my mind which to this day helps me make my decisions.

I suppose it is time for me to coach these kids. The technical part of the game is a mere tenth of the whole, almost overwhelming part that involves things like heart, discipline, courage and strength.

After all these years, I realize now there’s still so much to learn about it.

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