ecently, I looked in my bedroom closet and noticed it contains more jerseys than dress shirts. The rainbow array of polyester is a sign of shifting priorities. Every spring, out of the drab cocoon of my day job emerges the butterfly of a softball coach who squeezes in a little work around practices and games. My spreadsheets track batting orders rather than budgets. Our car’s trunk overflows with buckets of balls and bags of bats. Our washing machine fights a losing battle against grass stains. Parents need to volunteer to sustain our kids’ extra-curricular activities. For years, I’d dodged lice checks, field trips and the monsoon season of soccer, so I was overdue. The only games I’d ever played semi-seriously were softball, water polo and Dungeons & Dragons, which made the choice easier. By coaching, I can support my son and my daughter’s passion for baseball and softball and spend more time with both of them. If I wielded a whistle, I figured, they might actually listen to me. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) Leashed to my smartphone, my work life trails me home and hijacks my waking hours. I’m not alone. Even as we cheer from the sidelines, parents can’t resist composing emails or scrolling Twitter on the sly—and then we miss that big goal or diving save or home run. Coaching reduces that temptation. To manage a fun, safe, successful practice or game with a dozen rambunctious nine-year-olds, you must submit every synapse of your aging brain to their needs. Coaching, like parenting, is also a humbling experience. Puzzled expressions reveal the limits of what I know about the sport, as well as my limited ability to convey those fragments of wisdom. (Don’t ask me, for instance, to explain the infield fly rule.) Progress is slow. It takes more than 90 minutes to turn a squad of newbies into trophy-lifting Hollywood heroines.
74 Island Parent Magazine