I’ve had a 30-plus year professional career at this point in my life. Many of you who are perhaps reading this, are professional baseball coaches, unlike myself. I am an amateur baseball coach who had a few years of experience in my 20s helping out some teams but started coaching “seriously” when my son started playing T-ball.
I played baseball until I was 40 years old and would still be playing it if it weren’t for the injuries that I have had and the fact that I am now officially old. These days, I get my baseball fixes with a fungo bat or throwing BP, because my love for the game has never wavered.
When my son started to play baseball and quickly showed a love for the game, my mindset took a different direction than I thought it would. I wanted to give him every opportunity to succeed and certainly some that I never had. I think that’s a strong parallel to parenting in general. You want your kids to go further than you. Coaching him and his team was the logical progression, as I am sure many of you can relate.
From the onset of 8U, my son has been one of the best players on his teams. I was hard on him, like many dad coaches are. Pay attention at most youth baseball games and it’s usually easy to see who the coach’s son is. At one point I thought, and he was only nine years old, maybe I shouldn’t be coaching him because I’m expecting too much of him. A neighbor and mentor of mine, who was a legendary athlete, a 3-sport star in college and played in the NBA, told me when my son was playing T-ball, “just make sure he has fun.”
I have always heard that voice in the back of my head when I was going off about something. I was perhaps too hard on him at times. I know I was, actually. Another couple of years rolled by and I realized something. Having your dad as the head coach of your team puts a lot of pressure on you as a kid. I had to back off. Ultimately, I wanted to ensure that as a coach, I was treating all of the players on the team fairly, and this included my own son. We had a lot of deep, meaningful conversations on rides home from practices about this and honestly, it seems to have worked out.
My son is like me in many ways. He works hard, he wants to get better, he is humble but extremely competitive. And he’s different than me in many ways, and a lot better than I was!
While certainly not perfect, if that even exists, our coach/dad-son relationship has matured. He genuinely listens to me, and he also knows that I don’t pretend to know everything about the game. He has professional hitting and pitching coaches and a superb high school coach who are helping him through his journey. I honestly now think that he knows that my intentions were always in his best interest.
In the heat of a game or tournament, my competitive nature has gotten the best of me a time or two, and I’m sure that’s also not been easy on him. I’ve learned to try and keep an even keel with both him and his teammates. Players, and even old coaches, can exhibit growth year to year!
Because ultimately at his level or my level of coaching, what are we really doing? We are trying to develop solid young men who play baseball to move on to their next coach. I’ve often said to my team, “I’m trying to prepare you for your next coach.”
I’m now at the point where my son will move on to his next coach and he is ready for that.
As a coach, I am ready for that as well.
But as a dad, I still see that five-year-old playing T-ball, who has looked up to me for everything. I’m going to miss it mainly because of him and I hope one day he knows how much this time has meant to me.
That’s why I coach. And I’m damn sure glad I did.