Leave Your Footprints In The Game
This is a true story and taken from an actual paper I wrote last year for a college writing course.
Included are the actual photos from the championship game. Enjoy.!!!
When it comes to deciding on the future and what an individual hopes to gain and leave behind, many people reluctantly fall short of developing a lasting impact on something of value in life. The following account follows a young man and his insight of the momentous rewards of coaching youth sports. Gavin, as we'll call him, a native of the big city now living in a small rural Midwest area, and former baseball star, describes growing up playing competitive youth sports, winning state championships, and devoting his skills and knowledge of the game into coaching today’s youth in the game of softball.
Overcoming the obstacles of coaching in a primarily female sport, Gavin explains how softball is not just a game but a way of life. Although the game of softball can be seen as a recreational activity and nothing more, Gavin speaks on how both playing and coaching the game can enlarge some wonderful lessons and grant the bridge to college scholarships and independent prosperity. Having positive guidance and reinforcements on some of the basic needs in life can be cultured on a softball field. From one mentor to another, a description of how you Leave Your Footprints In The Game……………….
It’s not everyday you hear people say they dream of being a professional softball coach. Understanding its potential impact on the lives of others and supporting those who strive to coach may change their minds. Coaching youth softball creates opportunities that give youth a sense of triumph and a road map to success for their future.
As a child I can remember every weekend waking up early but eager to prepare for my game. It was a time where I would be surrounded by friends, parents, and coaches who all attended and shared the same goal. Wearing the uniform that only a select few were issued. Representing the best of the elite in organized sports in various towns and states.
Throughout my childhood years I learned structure and discipline. As the shortest player on the team, time was put extensively into learning how to jump higher than normal. In addition to working hard at improving my god-given stature, I accepted it and felt it was a fair trade considering I was blessed with being the fastest on the team as well. A sense of uniqueness was reinforced by my coaching staff once they realized that this little kid was capable of retaining all the skills needed to be a triumphant athlete despite his height.
My family moved two hours away from the area most of my ball games were played at. That didn't stop me from hopping on the local commuter train everyday after school to get to practice and play with the coaching staff that I wanted to finish my career with as a player. My commitment to my teammates and the coaches that believed in me since an early age was enough to make these sacrifices. The feeling of enormity they produced in me is a feeling that I've never lost and intend to divide. Although, most of these former coaches have passed away, their antics, techniques, and enthusiasm live in me and I'm expected to share with others.
As a teenager in high school, the majority of all the pictures, trophies, medals, and awards found their way from the shelf in my bedroom to a box in the garage. I hadn't outgrown any of the successes, but rather began to feel that these accomplishments deserve to carry on through others. Maybe the next kid who was quite short but very fast had been disregarded by others and it was my responsibility to unearth those thoughts and unfair assessments.
I never considered having an off-season in which I would just play video games or watch television. Instead, when there weren't any games to play I spent a lot of my time at professional baseball parks watching and admiring the skills of my favorite player, Dwayne Murphy, formerly of the Oakland Athletics, now hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. Obviously, it was fun but instinctively, I was learning more than I realized at the time. The animation level of a professional athlete appeared to be much more restrained than that of a teenager. Today we call that self control. I continued to play sports throughout high school and was very successful. The one question that resonates within me is what if I kept playing? At the time, life changed for me and I had a daughter at the age of twenty-two. The question remains unanswered but a new theory arose.
It was at this point in my life that I began to see the plan for my future and purpose. My younger sister, who we'll call Gwen, shared a similar interest for the love of the game and fulfilled her passion as a softball player beyond the scale of high school ball. Gwen received a ¾ scholarship to a major university for her athletic skills and her academic achievements. She later went on to play professional softball in Sweden and then returned to coach younger girls. The plan was staring me right in the face. All of the blood, sweat, and tears put into the game has its rewards. There is a set goal, a believable one, and now I have proof! It was at this moment, I knew that I could make a difference in the lives of many youth as a coach in the game of softball.
As a single father, sacrifices had to be made in order to give my daughter a chance to experience everything and more that I had as a child. We moved from the big city to the Midwest in hopes of slowing down the lifestyle pace as well as beginning to rebuild. Simply by habit, the first thing I observed was the softball world.
I felt I could make a difference right here and now not only for my daughter, but for the Midwest. I selected a dozen girls, created a traveling softball team, and began teaching the skills to these girls that were once taught to me. It was a new philosophy to this group, something they hadn’t seen before. The practices and scheduling were familiar to me but inspirational to the players and their families. That first year we finished 2nd and when the season was over the team was surprised to find out that after we went to see the movie “The Longshots”, an inspirational film about a girl succeeding on a football team, that there was a stretch limousine waiting outside for them to celebrate. It took them around town to broadcast their accomplishments. The smiles on those eight year old girls were priceless. Coaching goes beyond showing up at the ballpark and hitting a few balls, it’s a personality! You must have leadership, be trustworthy, and people MUST believe in you. Clearly, when I was younger I felt that belief and knew its importance. It was my job to share what I benefited from at the early age.
The later years
The majority of these girls have stayed with me since the team’s inception even though we have lost games, lost a few players, added new ones, and suffered a few injuries.The teachings of the intricacy at this young age gives them a head start on their future as once observed by this coach that lead me to become a believer.
Gwen made airplane trips over and taught a few clinics to the girls on the softball skills she mastered and again, you could see the expressions on the girls’ faces of admiration and excitement that a ‘real-life’ pro softball player was in the same gym with them. I remember that feeling when I was younger watching Dwayne Murphy. Beyond the skill drills, we talked about the path to success and how to obtain a softball scholarship tothe girls emphasizing that the athletic part is important but the academic part becomes mandatory. Gwen has a 4.25 GPA throughout college. Softball is fun, no question, but it takes hard work and dedication in multiple aspects of life to succeed. I still have individuals I look up to and admire now that I’m much older. Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish coach, Lou Holtz, has written many motivational articles and bookssince retiring from his coaching days and says "Your talent determines what you can do.Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it." (Holtz). It sounds simple and goes back to being that coach that you trust and believe in. Softball shouldn't be your life. There's God, your family, and your well-being that always come first. Shortly after creating the traveling teams, I was hired as both the middle school and high school softball coach for our local school district. A big honor.
The Current Reward
In 2010, I shared in an experience with these girls that they will never forget. We won the State Championship in softball. This was the first time in school history and in Class 1A softball that this school received a 1st place state championship in ANY sport.
The culmination of all the practices, lectures, and training finally was warranted even if only for that moment. As a coach, I was elated, there was no being able to suppress my excitement for these girls. They knew that they did it, they accomplished the ultimate goal. The put their name on the front lines of colleges and opened the door for many opportunities to come. I must say it is hilarious to watch 13-14 year olds do television interviews. This accomplishment stays with them forever. The uniform they wore that day can’t be worn by anybody else, ever! In 2010, they are the best of the best. And for me the coach, well, it’s a feeling that I did my part in helping them create that opportunity to feel the same feelings I once had. I gave them direction towards success and mapped out how to get there. They drove it home. It’s now up to them to continue with those skills. It is a huge step. I stressed to them each and every year to follow, that it's a wonderful accomplishment, never forget it; the key is to remember how hard you worked and fought for it! The new year is here and it's time to fight for it again.Do you want it?Time to work hard, play hard, and mentally and physically prepare. If one championship is all you wanted, congratulations you got it. If you're still hungry, then sign on the dotted line. Understand that you can accomplish anything you desire. You've tasted success and now you know what it's like to be successful. You've got your foot in but we have two feet. Dig deep and leave your footprints in the game……………..
UPDATED 9/14/2012 This year's team finished 3rd in State Championship which for a younger group of girls in an older age bracket was very impressive. The game and the desire lives on!
Coach (2010). Internet Readings. Dec. 23, 2011,
Holtz, Lou (1998). Winning every day: The game plan for success. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Holtz, Lou (2002). A teen’s game plan for life. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books.