In last week's post, I talked about how I never set out to be a coach this year.
Earlier, both my daughters expressed interest in playing softball. That surprised me because neither girl had played before. I signed both up and thought nothing more about the game other than putting in some time with them on fielding and catching.
By stroke of luck, both girls had to report to the same field for first day of practice. My younger daughter had her practice first and I saw her team had a coach and two assistant coaches. They broke the team up into sections and worked on drills separately, rotating sections out to other drills. Practice ended an hour later.
Right after that, my other daughter had her practice with her new team and coach. Other than noting her coach looked pregnant, I settled in to watch and wait for my wife to get here from work and pick up our younger daughter. It dawned on me that the coach was handling this practice by herself and it was taking FOREVER to go through a drill before moving onto another.
After an hour, the coach had just finished the pitching drill and that was the first drill. I knew right away help was much needed and that's when my wife showed up. I told her about that and she said, "Why don't you offer her your help? You've coached before." I nodded at that and said, "Come with me then." We walked over to the coach and with my wife interpreting for me, I volunteered to be an assistant coach. 3 others jumped in to volunteer as well.
What I remembered the most about that moment was all the girls coming over to look at me when I offered help. I got strange looks, curious looks, bewildered looks, and so forth. However, my daughter was super-thrilled to have me on board as an assistant coach. My wife overheard her tell her teammates "My dad is a very good coach and you will learn a lot from him."
The coach texted me two days later to make sure I would be there for practice. I showed up and she didn't know what to do with me. I'm used to that and I had a feeling that would happen, which was why I had an interpreter. I discussed with the coach on how to communicate with me in an effective manner and she was very attentive. I promised her I would have an interpreter at every practice because I knew not everyone would understand me.
During practice that day, I noticed some girls didn't know how to throw properly, catch properly, and/or field properly. What I meant by that is how you use your feet while throwing, having the glove in proper alignment when catching, and setting yourself in front of the ball to field it cleanly.
The coach was amazed by how I picked up on the minutae and I told her, "It's easy to overlook things when it's second nature to you and to me. Our job to to make sure they all know how to do things correctly to minimize injuries." That impressed her even more and she took to me right away. We became comfortable with each other and she was surprised by my approach to the game.
She liked how calm and attentive I was with everyone and she became my fan when I made a player run the length of the outfield for trying to catch a ball in a dangerous way. That is, catching a ball palm up with the back of the hand horizontal to the ground while the ball is coming in high instead of having the glove pointing up to the sky. That's a sure-fire way to have a ball hit you in the face. She had never been able to break the girls of that dangerous habit last year and my way did the job much faster. I even did it to my own daughter, making her run the length several times.
When a parent tried to hassle her over something trivial, I reminded her that she is "HBIC" and she should utilize her assistant coach to make sure everything would be done correctly. Her eyes widened at that and and she said, "If that's what I think you said, you're right. I want you to handle the girls while I go and make it clear who is in charge here."
To clarify what HBIC is, it's "Head Boss (or a bad word) In Charge". The letter B is beautifully interchangeable for either sex. ;)
Not long after the season started, she texted me to let me know she wasn't handling her pregnancy well and had to be on bed rest. She felt that since I was the only assistant coach to show up at every practice AND game along with showing patience and great attention to details, I would be ideal to replace her. I was honored by her faith in me to lead the team.
When a parent found out that I was promoted to head coach, she volunteered herself and her husband for assistant coaches. That instantly allayed any fear any parent might've had with the team having a deaf coach. We got along easily without the aid of interpreters and the husband turned out to be a fabulous coach - I would say something small like "One out" and he would follow all the way through by saying to the runners "One out, that means what? That's right, stay and wait unless there's a ground ball then you run!"
I made sure to let every player play in whatever position they wanted to and I followed the rule of letting each player play on the field for at least 2 innings per game (not every coach followed that). I must confess that I did have an ulterior motive for letting everyone play in all positions - this allowed me to develop depth in each position. This turned out to be the right thing because two players got suspended for the year due to off-field infractions and two players dropped out.
We started the season with 13 players and finished with 9 (one never showed up in the final game) with the record of 2-10 (there were only 4 teams in the league, 4 game series each). We lost 2 games by 2 runs or less, which is awesome considering the fact the majority of the players were playing for the first time. The girls loved playing and loved playing for me.
I spoke with the former coach; she wants to come back. I told the husband and wife that they made great assistant coaches. I even told the husband that if he decides not to move this year and the league needs another coach, I'd gladly coach against him because I thought he would make a very good coach too. He was touched by that and liked the idea of coaching against me as well.
I am looking forward to next year. ;)
A letter to my family and friends
3 days ago