Tales from Coaching Youth Sports
Sometimes you just forget what they know...
Coaching first base for my 3rd grade girls softball team... we had a runner on first and no outs. I always "coached 'em up" when they got to first base:
"Listen to me. I'll tell you when to run", "Stay on the base until the ball is hit", and other pearls of wisdom. The batter crushed a ball into the outfield (actually it was probably a ground ball that eluded the infielders, reaching the less-than-interested outfielders). I knew we were looking at a scoring opportunity. I told my runner "Go to third!"
She ran directly across the infield toward third base.
I think she ran as far as the pitcher's mound before 20 screaming parents got her attention. Fortunately, the umpire allowed her to retrace her steps and regain the proper path.
Our city was enduring a 17-year infestation of cicadas. The bugs were everywhere. They chirped incessantly all day long, flew clumsily from tree to tree, and somehow ended up where they were least expected. Every tree was stuffed with the red-eyed creepy critters.
Coaching 1st base for my 4th grade girls softball team, I noticed that the opposing first baseman (basegirl?) played her position standing directly on the first base bag. She should have been at least 5-8 feet inside the first base line and slightly behind the base. In the first few years of playing softball, we coaches helped each other by gently repositioning the kids on the other team. The practice was expected and appreciated. We continued the practice until about 3rd grade; by that time all of the girls learned their positions.
In this situation, I felt that 5 years of softball should have been enough; I chose not to say anything. After several pitches, the little girl looked over at me and asked "Will you get rid of that thing?" A confused cicada lay twitching in the dirt, precisely where she should have been playing. I picked it up by the wings, shook off the dirt and tossed it at the parents sitting on the sidelines.The little girl happily went to her proper placement on the field.
Coaching junior high boys basketball, we found ourselves 1 point behind with about 5 seconds left to play in the championship game. My best player, probably the league's best player, was at the free throw line for 2 shots. The opposing coach called time-out to give my shooter time to 'think' about his endeavor. I called my team to the bench, sat down on the floor in front of them, and said "After Chris makes these two free throws, here's what we'll do...". What I might have said after that, I have no recollection. My intent was to show complete faith in my shooter; beyond that I knew they wouldn't remember what I said anyway.
He made both free throws and we won the game by a single point.
Afterward he confided in my assistant coach how shocked he was at my game-ending strategy. I have no idea if he even remembers the game. I sure do. It's amazing how good players make such good coaches.