I have fond childhood memories of going to the Angel Stadium with my dad. He loved baseball and his enthusiasm for anything was contagious. So when spring season rolled around, I enthusiastically signed my son up for Tee-Ball. Swept up in the sweet memory of a simpler time, I blithefully checked the box with a “Heck yeah I’ll volunteer!” I was thinking kale chips and cookies. You can imagine my surprise when I got the call to be a Head Coach.
“I’m sorry. Head…what?”
Long story short, after an initial shock and spasmodic laugh, I saw a golden opportunity. My son will only be six once. And I know enough about baseball to know coaching Tee-Ball is my only chance. His dad is 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 precious 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. As fate would have it, a funny thing happened on my way to being a coach. I learned something about myself and a little bit about life. Here are the Top Ten Things I Learned Coaching Tee-Ball:
Get in the game.
While I would’ve been happy to have been the designated Snack Girl, there’s nothing like getting in the game. Not being good at something is a terrible reason not to try. Being “game” is a mindset that has little to do with natural talent or skill. Getting in the game is knowing that good-enough is good-enough.
Don’t keep score.
This one is straight from the playbook, but it applies to life off the field as well. There are many ways to keep score such as comparing yourself to others, holding onto resentments, or silently noting the failings of your partner. My mentor once said the only sensible answer to the question of “Who’s right?” is “Who cares?” I love that. Truth is, we’re all fumbling and learning in equal measure.
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 for other things. And in that space, “Yes!” opens the door to possibility.
Use your gifts.
Despite a lack of athletic ability, I played sports in high school. Because I lacked skill, I was invariably voted “Most Spirited Player.” Needless to say, by our second game it was clear that knowing how to play Tee-Ball was an advantage other coaches had over me. I decided then to lead with what I do know. While it’s true that my boys “threw like a girl,” I guarantee you wouldn’t find a more enthusiastic or supportive group of players in the league.
As a practicing minimalist, I work at living intentionally. Yet I put pressure on myself to show up as a legit coach, but then a wonderful thing happened. I let go and in doing so was able to see clearly what was most important – connecting with the kids and having fun.
Keep it simple.
Have you ever tried to herd cats? Coaching Tee-Ball was like that. I learned quickly to keep instructions short and to the point. Too much of anything boggles the mind. We’re not wired for overwhelm. 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, one mistake at a time. Getting that message across to the boys was quite possible my greatest accomplishment. Instead of rehashing blunders, ask yourself instead “What did I learn?” and move on.
Slow down and connect.
I kicked off our first practice with a rousing 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 clarity. In that moment I saw what was needed: connection. Since that day, I’ve been more aware of slowing down in order to connect – not only with my son – but to life in general. Each time I have, I’ve been rewarded with a peaceful, easy feeling.
I find the speed of life overwhelming and still don’t own a cell phone. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for today’s kids. Moments of quiet seem few and far between. Out on the field with nothing 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 great gift.
They’re all precious moments.
This is as true as you want it to be.