By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC
Recently I was taking a drive on a Saturday afternoon, carefree and relaxed, not sure what to do with the remainder of my afternoon, when I was suddenly transported to the past. It was a Saturday on the same date twenty years earlier. And gee, was I busy.
I remembered that back then, my Saturdays in the spring were entirely different. I had three sons, spaced two years apart, playing Little League. I was the coach of all three of their teams. Here is how the day went: Get to the field at 7:15 AM for the first game of the day which began at 8:30. After that, a second game at 11:30. Finally, I’d coach my third game of the day at 2:00.
Of course, before every game there were hundreds of wiffle balls to pitch in warm-ups. After every game there would be dragging and watering of fields.
Then, on Sunday, I’d coach a travel ball double-header.
This was followed by a Monday afternoon practice, Tuesday afternoon game, Wednesday game, Thursday practice and Friday practice. Then, Saturday, rinse and repeat.
I mentioned this schedule to my oldest son the other day, thinking I might get a little appreciation or admiration. Instead, he interpreted it as my fishing for sympathy and said, “Yeah, but we lived for those days.”
Boy, is he right.
It was hard. Every day now my old back reminds me how many pitches I threw, grounders and fly balls I hit, bases I ran to demonstrate technique. I also worked a full-time job supporting a stay-at-home wife and four kids. I don’t know if I could pull off that schedule now. But if I had it to do all over again, I would.
The relationships I had with all those kids I coached meant the world to me. I can still laugh out loud recalling various things I heard them say. I would like to think I had some positive impact on their lives, no matter how minor.
I am thankful for the relationships I had with the guys I coached with. Off the top of my head, I would guess that 10-15 of the people I consider my closest friends to this day were also on the field with me back then.
But most importantly, that time I spent in those fun battles on the diamond with my boys has bonded us in ways I don’t think anything else could have. Their memories of those days are among their fondest, and I am so grateful to have been right there, a part of it all.
I see a new generation of volunteer coaches on the baseball, softball, and soccer fields, (I coached those sports too), and I hope they can look forward, just as I’m looking back. I hope they, and all those who may be reluctant to give it a try, can realize there will come a time when they will not have this opportunity to shape lives, make lifelong friends and spend the most quality of time with their kids. I hope they will soak it all in and understand that being involved as a volunteer coach is a tremendous and fleeting gift that they are giving…and receiving.
I’m not going to lie. This coming Saturday, I am going to enjoy sleeping in a little and then getting up and planning my relaxing day. Or not planning it at all. But I am also going to remember the time when nearly every minute of every day during the season was spoken for. Because it is true; I really did live for it.
Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org