When I was 15 years old, I was asked if I would like to coach one of the PeeWee house league baseball teams in my home organization in Leaside. I was lucky enough to have been playing for six years and had some terrific coaches who taught me a lot about the game. I was really keen to be a coach and the PeeWee house league was very competitive. It had regular sponsors that had put their names on the front of the jerseys for years. Teams like Canada Wire, VIPS (which we later learned was Humphrey Funeral Home), Heinig BP and Richardson’s for Sports to name a few competed hard for the championship each year. The league had a select team that was the de facto rep team for Leaside so all the best players had to play house league too - which upped the ante in all of the games.
Interestingly, the house league actually had a real draft before the season for all the new players entering the league (returning players stayed with their team). Being new, not knowing the routine, and being a little competitive, I called all of the players on the draft list beforehand and asked if they had played baseball before, what position they wanted to play and whether they played other sports. This allowed me to make my personal “priority” draft list and make sure I had all positions covered once all the selections had been made.
As the draft began, I was shocked at some of the players that the other coaches were picking. Clearly they must have learned things in the pre-draft “scouting” that I had missed as some of the players weren’t very high on my list. What I didn’t know was that no other coaches even thought about calling all the players. This was house league for goodness sake. Needless to say, my team was pretty stacked come pre-season as I managed to draft almost all of the top athletes in the pool. By my third practice, the PeeWee convener took me aside and asked how I managed to get so many great players on my team. I told him I called everyone to explore their athletic background before the draft. The convener chuckled, told me I had done a good job, and then proceeded to make some “trades on my behalf” with other teams to even out the league.
I had a great season that year. We were still pretty good even after the forced trades. We may have won the championship - it doesn’t really matter now. But, I had my first taste of coaching.
I was thinking about that team as I have “connected” on LinkedIn with a few players who I coached back then. Scott Adams was one of my two best players, both of whom happened to be left handed. They were both excellent pitchers but when they weren’t on the mound I would play them at shortstop and third base. Here is where I had my first run in with a parent. I had one father whose son wanted to play third base - and he did when one of the lefties was on the mound. But it used to drive this parent nuts when I played two left handed players on the left side of the infield - something totally against baseball norms (because you have to turn to throw to first base). Suffice it to say, I learned a lot from that year of coaching. I loved it. I loved teaching the game of baseball and I really enjoyed being with the players.
I ended up coaching this group through Bantam and Midget. I was two years older than them and often they were called up to play with my team when we needed players - something I really enjoyed. Scott Adams was one of those players that we called up. He was a terrific pitcher and to this day I have not seen a better move to first base. There would be innings when he would strikeout the first two batters and then walk the third just so he could pick him off on first.
Scott commented on one of my blog posts a few weeks ago on the use of the “trap” in hockey with the teams he coaches. I was extremely happy to see his comment really for two reasons: first, that he had actually read my post but most importantly, that he is coaching - and clearly enjoying what he is doing.
Some things that coaches say always stick with you. My high school hockey coach Brian Proctor told our team once that his goal of coaching was that we “would learn about the game of hockey, enjoy watching it more when we were done playing, and pass our knowledge onto our kids.” This has always stuck with me and I hope that my players learn about the game and pass it on to their kids one day too.
My longwinded point to this blog is that as coaches, we need to encourage our players to one day give back to the game. In a time when we are truly desperate for people to put up their hands and volunteer to coach, it would be great to see young people, once they have finished playing, find ways to become an assistant coach or head coach, and learn about how to teach the game and direct a group of players. It is fun and a great transition from playing a game you love. There are many skills that are very transferable to the business world: effective communication, leadership and working with others in a team setting. And…it looks terrific on a résumé.
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