Little League Coaches Shape Lives

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File Photo.
File Photo. George Luff throwing out the first pitch at the Little League East Regionals in 2004. His son Connor is behind home plate.

By Gary John

So as I sit here for what feels like the 38th straight day of morning rain, I was starting to feel a bit sad as my Little Leaguers have had a couple of rain outs and we haven’t been able to practice either because of all this slop and the boys just want to play!   Those thoughts remind me of what a much more difficult season this could have been due to the fact that our league originally didn’t have enough volunteers to coach in our division.  And I’m not writing this because I’m trying to get on a soap box and say ‘I do this why don’t you?’ I’m truly puzzled as to why more parents don’t get involved.  I’ve been coaching my son since his first season of t-ball and I’ll admit that there were a couple of seasons that I was going to say that I didn’t want to do it, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

It’s amazing the impact that you can have on these kids, just take as an example that I can’t remember by 5th grade teacher’s name, but I remember that Mr. Mullen, Mr. Mckenna, Mr. Riegel, Mr. Cagle, Mr. Schilling, Mr. Defay and so on, they were my coaches throughout Little League, I don’t remember their names because I was best friends with their sons, I remember them because of the time they took to teach us how to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  That being part of a team was one of the coolest things, that picking someone up when they were feeling down actually makes you feel better and nothing gives you confidence more than knowing that you have someone behind you that believes you can do anything.

Notice I don’t remember them teaching me the infield fly rule, what a ground rule double was or how to throw a curveball, that’s really not what it’s about.  Sure we try to teach the kids some basics of the game, but what we sometimes lose sight of as parents is that there is way more to these youth sports than the competition, you don’t have to be an expert in that sport to be a coach and make a lasting impression on those kids.  It’s not too late either, I’m sure if you approach your kids coach and offer to lend a hand he or she will find a way for you to help the group.

But even if you aren’t willing to do that, I’m also amazed at how many kids come to the ballpark and there is no one in the stands to support them, I’ve noticed this more so over the last couple of seasons since my son has moved into the older levels.  I know that we are all busy, trust me, we are moving in a faster pace than we have ever before and it gets seriously tricky when you have multiple children doing multiple things, but it’s sad when you see the looks on some child’s face when he hears a mom or dad cheering for their kid and he knows that there is no one to shout his name from those same bleachers because they aren’t there or they choose to sit in their car in the parking lot.   Cheer for your kids!  Embarrass them a little, it’s ok, my mother was usually the loudest voice in the stands and there wasn’t a second of my life that if I ever wondered if I had what it took to do something that I didn’t remember her voice screaming to me that I could do it, being there matters.

I almost feel like I’m writing this as my 12 year old self trying to convince you that 10, 20, 30 years later the memories that we take with us aren’t how many hits, strikeouts or games we won, it’s how did those games make us better people today.  I am so grateful to the wonderful men who I mentioned earlier in this piece and I don’t even know how to get in touch with them anymore, but I hope they know what an impact they made on a chubby little boy from Mantua, who hopes that 20 years from now even just one of the little guys or gals that have been on his teams will feel like he made a difference for them.  And I wish more of us would be willing to take that leap, maybe there would be a little more understanding and hope for our little ones.

Thanks, maybe now this rain will stop and we can play ball!

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