I have fond childhood memories of going to the Angel Stadium with my dad. He loved baseball and his enthusiasm for anything was contagious. Naturally when spring season rolled around and Tee-Ball signed abound, I was quick to enroll my son. Swept in the memory of a simpler time, I happily checked the volunteer box and never gave it another thought.
By “volunteer,” I was thinking cupcakes and cookies. You can imagine my surprise when I got a call asking if I’d to be Head Coach. “I’m sorry. What?”
My son will only be six once. And I know enough about life to know coaching Tee-Ball is my one and only chance to coach anything. His dad’s the athlete, not me. In the blink of an eye, my son will out run, out throw and out swing his middle-age mama.
This was my moment.
According the Official Guide Book, the goal of Tee-Ball is to “have fun, try hard and be a good sport.” And for ten weeks I had the pleasure of doing just that, playing the best game in the world with the best team ever. And as fate would have it, a funny thing happened on my way to being a coach. I learned something.
Top Ten Things I Learned While Coaching Tee-Ball:
- Don’t keep score. This one is straight from the playbook, but it applies to life off the field. There are many ways to keep score such as comparing yourself to others, holding onto resentments, or silently noting the failings of your partner. The only sensible answer to the question of “Who’s right?” is “Who cares?” We’re all fumbling and learning in equal measure.
- Get in the game. While I would’ve been happy as the Snack Girl, there’s nothing like getting in the game. Being “game” is a mindset that has little to do with natural talent or skill. Besides, not being good at something is a terrible reason not to try. Getting in the game is knowing that good-enough is good-enough.
- Say Yes! Saying yes to experience is a powerful way to live. It encourages acceptance, fosters flexibility and, ironically, often begins with saying “no.” That’s because saying “no” creates space and in that space, “Yes!” opens the door to possibility.
- Use your gifts. By our second tee-ball game, it was clear that knowing how to play was an advantage other coaches had over me. I decided then to lead with what I know. While it’s true that my boys may “throw like a girl,” I guarantee you won’t find a more enthusiastic or supportive group of players in the league.
- Prioritize. The minute I agreed to coach, I wondered what I’d done. How was I going to pull this off when time already felt limited? That’s when I remembered that the trick to doing it all, is that you don’t. We do our best and let go of the rest. From there it was just a few deep breaths to focus on what mattered most: connecting with the kids and having fun.
- Keep it simple. Have you ever tried to herd cats? It’s similar to coaching tee-ball. I learned quickly to keep instructions short and to the point. Too much of anything boggles the mind. Simple and deep is infinitely more sustainable than shallow and wide.
- Shake it off. Dwelling in misfortune is a waste of energy. We’re all doomed to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Getting that message across to the boys was my greatest achievement. Instead of rehashing blunders, ask yourself “What did I learn?” and move on.
- Slow down and connect. I kicked off our first practice with a game of tag. Unfortunately seeing me joke and play with the other boys was too much for my only child. After a particularly epic melt down (his, not mine), there was a brief moment of calm. Only then did I catch what was needed: connection. Each time I remember to slow down, I’ve been rewarded with greater calm, clarity, and, of course, connection.
- Stay present. I find the speed of life overwhelming at times. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for today’s kids. Moments of quiet seem few and far between. Being out on the field with no phone, computer or book to distract me, I was more present to their world. Kids have no concept of time. They are all present moment. Being experientially reminded of that was a tremendous gift.
- They’re all precious moments. This is as true as we can allow it to be.