Monday, January 6, 2014

Tip Of The Cap To You, Skip

As published in The County Times ( in April 2010

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Spring always rejuvenates but, after the winter that was, this one feels more like a re-birth.  The last couple weekends have been nothing short of psychological and spiritual bypass surgery for at least one guy who was a snowflake away from re-enacting parts of Jimmy Buffet’s song Boat Drinks (think extreme cabin fever).  With all due respect to Ponce de Leon who risked life and limb in search of the Fountain of Youth, after the brutality of this winter, I needed little more than a couple of weekends with temperatures in the 70s to feel more youthful. 

Despite Mother Nature mercifully turning up the temperatures early and with authority, for the sports fan, it’s not spring until bats are cracking, mitts are popping and we’re playing ball.  For me, the seasonal switch flipped last weekend.  While “on assignment” at a local park, I had the pleasure and interesting perspective of watching three different local teams of various age groups shaking off the rust in preparation for the upcoming season.  It was a perfect evening: warm, sunny, the sights and sounds of baseball all around.  As refreshing as it was, it’s a scene (our national pastime greeting spring) I’ve experienced before and one that occurs annually in Southern Maryland and nationwide.  On this night though, there was a particularly poignant moment.  Gazing across the fields I saw a T-ball coach getting his kids into defensive positions, a little league coach hitting fly balls and another pitching batting practice.  What’s so special about that you ask?  Try everything.

In this beautiful but routine spring timepiece, it occurred to me – unlike it ever had before – just how extraordinary the work of local youth league coaches is.  For this specific evening to occur, many elements were required: cooperative weather, willing parents, exuberant kids and a supportive local government.  But the scarce resources in the equation that made the evening possible were the coaches. 

It’s easy to take for granted the orchestration necessary to coach a team.  Whether adult player or parent, most of us just show up to team events – be it a practice, game or post-season celebration - and offer little more than a passing thought to the effort involved in its or a season’s execution.  Most parents, especially the athletically inclined, probably have at least considered stepping up and coaching a team.  Ultimately though, after considering the time involved in coaching kids, managing playing time, hauling equipment and dealing with the occasional rogue parent reliving their athletic career through their kids, most of us don’t; choosing instead to defer and assume others will.  After all, we really don’t have the time, right?  Yeah, as if those who choose to coach a team do.

Every season, regardless of the sport, coaches help introduce our children to or progress their knowledge in a particular sport, create cherished childhood memories and forge life-long friendships.  It is work whose value cannot be understated but is often unappreciated and overlooked.  Anyone with a relationship with athletics, from the weekend warrior to the professional athlete, undoubtedly owes a debt of gratitude to a few individuals that made the conscious decision to give a little of themselves, for their community and a group of kids, and coach a local team.  In fact, reconsidering the sources of my affection for sports, perhaps I owe more to my little league and soccer coaches than I ever realized.  For that matter, without them maybe I’m not even writing this column, and what a huge civic loss that would be (okay, maybe “huge” is a bit of an overstatement). 

Back to the practices I mentioned earlier, the lasting images were the smiles across the faces of our young athletes; positive emotion created in part by those coaches.  Is there any bigger daily accomplishment than putting a smile on a kid’s face?  For regularly doing just that, for getting kids off couches and into some dirt and for facilitating the athletic experience, I tip my cap and say thanks to our rec-league coaches.  On at least one evening, your good work didn’t go unnoticed.    

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