My children are all grown up now (meaning they are over eighteen). Accordingly my days and nights as a father are quite a bit different from what they were just ten years ago. This is because I was a dedicated coach of youth sports – ones in which my children played of course. Like so many people I coached youth soccer (which I name ‘organized mayhem’), youth basketball and youth baseball. I loved every single minute of it and miss it dearly.
I thought of this when I drove past the baseball fields in my newly adopted hometown. There was a man (presumably a father of one of the boys) hitting grounders and pop-ups to young kids under the age of ten (I only guess this because they were really small). Ten years ago I was President of Wilton Little League and even named district one volunteer of the year. There were unending practices, games, car rides and rainouts. However in the process I got to know many families, and the kids themselves. I miss the dirt in my trunk, carrying equipment in the back of my car everywhere I go and simply just being outside working and enjoying being with the kids.
So as I drove past I thought why are my coaching days over? Is it only because I have no children in the program? And in this politically correct time if I were to volunteer to coach baseball (for example) for a team on which I have no children of my own as players, in a town that I have only lived for 5 months would I even be given the opportunity? Would I be seen as creepy for wanting to spend afternoons, evenings or weekends telling kids to hit the cutoff man, to throw strikes, or slide? It only takes one disgruntled parent to completely ruin a reputation.
My conclusion was that while I don’t feel it would be creepy in the least, it’s not my opinion that counts and surely some people would look at it unfavorably, even nervously. And how sad is that? It’s bad enough that good, smart, and capable people choose not to enter politics due to the scrutiny and glare of the spotlight. But that one has to think twice about helping out in youth sports is kind of sad.
How many people are there like me who only want to contribute but hesitate to do so because of the possibility of some people’s negative perception? Am I being overly cautious or oversensitive here?
Mark, It’s funny, I have had the same exact thoughts. After coaching for six years in Little League/Babe Ruth/Girls softball, I also miss spitting sunflower seeds and having a reason to own cleats. From my experience, on the whole the girls were far more coachable and reasonable on the field. If you think volunteering to coach boys baseball without a kid in the program would be perceived as creepy, think about if you wanted to still coach softball? Oh well.
Good point about how it would be even more awkward if it were a girl’s softball team I wanted to coach. I too enjoyed coaching girls soccer and miss that as well. Although they were not always so easy to coach! Thanks for reading and for the comment David.
I realize this reply is two years late, but perhaps you could volunteer to umpire for a season or two and get to know people, then offer to coach. Little Leagues are always looking for responsible, adult umpires who know the rules, can take charge of the game, and interact well with the kids. After you get to know more people involved in the leagues, and they get to know you better, it will be easier to transition back into coaching without worrying about the “creepy” perception people may or may not have.
It’s never too late for a thoughtful reply John and thank you. Your suggestion is a good one and reminds me that it’s easy to make excuses to not do something. If one really wants to make it happen then there are other ways as you point out. Thanks for reading and for contributing.