The cheers have long
faded. Grass has grown over the base paths and ant mounds now rise where
once pitchers faced down opponents. But, the memories linger on...
It's winter now, halfway
between seasons and I sit here in the stands looking out over the field.
It seems like just yesterday that I stood in the coach's box giving signals
to yet another team of "SweetHearts".
Back in April I watched dozens of nervous
nine year olds "tryout" for our league teams. By July it was
Now 'tryout' is really the wrong word
in the Sulphur Parks and Recreation Program. No matter how good or bad
a girl is, she still makes a team. The goal of SPAR is everyone who wants
to play will play.
Tryouts and draft is more for the coaches
than the players.It's the one time each coach gets to see if he or she
can "out draft" the others and put together that 'special' team.
After watching the parade of hopefuls
with awkward throws and muffed catches, the coaches divided the players
for the summer's teams. Being the typical coach, I just knew I had managed
to slip a few talented girls past my fellow coaches but I had eight openings
to fill and if this was going to be a respectful season I would have to
do better than a few.
The SweetHeart's impressive record over
the past several seasons made us the team everyone wanted to beat. As practices
began I began to feel we had another winner on our hands. It didn't take
long to come back down to earth.
We had "owned" the kickoff
Memorial Day Tournament for the past several seasons but instead of being
the team to beat, we lost all four games - two by shutouts. Suddenly I
realized this could be a very long season. I was right, the losses began
As the season progressed I began to notice
a change in me. A change that would stay with me all the years I have coached.
As I looked at the teams in the league, everyone came to the game with
the pressure that they HAD to win. Coaches and parents alike yelled at
the girls. Players were afraid to make a mistake. And they were only 9
& 10 years old - their FIRST year in fast pitch.
On the other side of the field my girls
were smiling, laughing, and having fun. Sure they had been taught the fundamentals,
we worked on them at every practice. We played well, we were just out classed.
My coaches and I continued to work on
the basics and stopped worrying at the stats. WE even began to enjoy the
games. We no longer worried about the score.
Nineteen games came and went and we only
won only one.
At the end of the year party the parents
and the girls told me how much fun they had had during the season. We passed
out more awards that year than any before or since.
Then the girls all headed home and put
away their gloves and bats for another season.
As I stand here in the
coach's box and look across the diamond, the winter wind whispers through
the tall pines that surround the field and I hear the chatter of games
long past - "Hey batter, batter...SWING!"
I realize that the past
summer was very long in some aspects but way too short in another. The
summer was not important because of some winning record. It was important
because 14 very special little girls taught their coach that success does
not come in the number of games you win but how much you love the game.
As the sun settles down
behind the trees, I close my eyes. I can smell the fresh cut grass, the
dust and lime. I can even smell the hotdogs and popcorn. But most of all
I can see those smiling faces. You know this really was a successful season.
Thanks to the SweetHearts
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