Paul Schneider explains why coaching gives him another chance to stay connected to his kids and to teach them what he loves most about the game.
I found Jackie’s question puzzling, but answered it with a straight face. Luckily, she didn’t see the expression in my eyes behind my sunglasses.
“Why are you here? Natalie’s not here.”
I was there because of responsibility, integrity. I was there because, even though my daughter was elsewhere three hours away, I was, and am, a role model for her.
In no way do I mean to insinuate that Jackie is less than a good parent or quality role model for her daughter. I was just struck by her question.
True, Natalie wasn’t there to pitch or play shortstop or wherever the head coach wanted her to play on this Saturday afternoon. But I signed up to be an assistant coach, and why would I cheat the girls out of my teaching and experience?
I’ve been coaching softball for both of my daughters since my incoming college freshman was 7, maybe 8 years old. Every March, the conversation was the same: “Dad, are you gonna coach softball this year?”
“Are you gonna play?”
“Then I’m gonna coach.”
I’m not the best girls’ softball coach in Evanston, Illinois. In fact, I may be one of the worst, who knows? I’ve never won a championship, and my teams usually finish around .500.
That’s hardly the point.
The point is, coaching softball gives me another chance to stay connected to my kids, and to teach what I love about playing the game properly, how to respect teammates, opponents and umpires (that last one is tough sometimes) and to watch friendships germinate and then blossom as a season progresses.
Someone told me once that “passion” comes from “pass-I-on” – that is, I pass on to you what I love.
I love that.
Perhaps what I love most about it is the camaraderie among the girls. There are no cliques, no small circles where one kid or another is left out, no Mean Girls scenarios. There’s only coming together for a common goal, and there’s only cheering for your teammates.
As a coach, I like to think I’m part of that process, of developing unity among teammates. As kids I think we all at one time or another fall in love with the idea of “one world, one people,” that unfortunately falls away to certain degrees as we get older.
And as a coach, I’m not only committed to my own kid, but to the other 12 players on the team. I made a commitment to them, and as a responsible man who tries to live in integrity and sometimes struggles to set a positive example to his daughters, that commitment is paramount in that moment, even if my daughter isn’t there to share in it. And if I convey that idea of commitment, responsibility and integrity with her, perhaps it plants a kernel, a source of pride somewhere in her mind that, “Hey, my dad really cares about this.”
That’s why I’m there, Jackie.
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Photo: Lesley Show/Flickr