Whenever a baseball or softball player gets to first base, the first-base coach slides over toward the player and offers some information and guidance. The player responds with some additional thoughts.
I’m guessing they never talked about how much a player loves puppies.
That was standard conversational fare during our recently completed softball season.
I’m always willing to step up when I hear one of my children’s teams needs some coaching help, so I volunteered to coach these girls who just finished their first- and second-grade years. I usually joke it’s the perfect age range for me, since most of my athletic skills peaked around then anyway.
The goal is to teach them some fundamentals and help them build a love for the game. We want to show them that doing things the right way in terms of technique actually makes the game more fun to play.
But, as anyone who’s encountered children in that 6- to 8-year-old range knows, the conversations can be wide-ranging and unexpected.
I prefer coaching first base, in part so I can congratulate each girl when she gets a hit and in part because I can wander over to our bench to keep the other girls out of trouble while they’re waiting for their turn to bat.
I’d coached first base in recreational softball for most of my 20s and for older girls in my 30s, so I thought I knew what the conversations would be about: How many outs, when to run, when to come back, whether I expected to see a ground ball or a popup.
These are some of the highlights of what I heard from players this season:
• “Every time I swing the bat, I just pretend the ball is my brother’s face, and I hit it a lot harder.”
• “I haven’t been practicing much at home because I’ve been working on riding my bike really, really fast. I’m really fast now.”
• “I might be running a little slow tonight, coach. We had chili for dinner. You might want to stand back.”
• “I like softball, but I like butterflies, too. Why don’t we see more butterflies?”
• “Do you live here at the park? I only ever see you at the park.”
• “Did you see that hit, coach? I did just what you said, and it worked. I didn’t think you knew what you were talking about, but it worked.”
• “Are there going to be treats after the game? I really like treats.”
• “I know, I know. Start running when the batter hits it. I’m not 5, you know.”
• “If I was at home right now, you wouldn’t be standing next to me.”
• “Do you think these bugs are big enough to lift us off the ground and fly away?”
I’m partial to my own 8-year-old daughter’s thoughts toward the end of the season:
“I’m glad you’re my coach, Dad,” she said. “Then you can be twice as proud of me when I’m doing well.”
David Trinko is editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.