I Know I Made a Mistake

I know I made a mistake

“I Know I Made a Mistake” Written By Bill Boles, Jr

I was coaching third during a heated tournament against a team that has become our rival over the past few years. We had a runner on second base and our girl hit a short fly ball into no-mans-land between the second baseman and the shortstop. Both girls drop-stepped and ran full speed converging on one another and sure enough, there was that spark-emitting collision that quieted the crowd as the second baseman caught the ball for the out.

As both girls were laid out in the dirt moaning, dirt mixing with tears I held up both my hands and told my girl on second base to stay on the base. The coach behind me stormed out of the dug-out yelling at the top of his lungs as though the world were ending, “GET THE BALL OUT, GET THE BALL OUT, THE PLAY ISN’T DEAD, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??!!! I looked at that red-faced coach and then at his girls rolling in the dirt and I just could not believe that he would put one potential run over the health of his kids.

I watched how that every single member of that sisterhood wearing the same blue uniforms with their names on the back and matching bows were dejected seeing their sisters hurt and at the lack of priority established by their leader. After the dust settled, tears were wiped away, and the injured second baseman was subbed out, their errors multiplied, and we ended up winning by a large margin. It was interesting to reflect after that game that we didn’t beat his team, the opposing coach was the one who beat his team for us; all we had to do was put the ball in play.

I remember a time when I first decided to call myself a coach, I had organizational skills, I had determination, I had a degree in management, I had experience playing the sport at a pretty high level, and just because I was raising a daughter, I thought I knew what coaching girls was all about. Well, I was so wrong and when I think about it I am so embarrassed at the memory of the mistakes I made, but I am also honored at the opportunity I had to learn at the feet of some of the greatest coaching mentors, most good, some bad, and a few who were ugly.

One of the greatest lessons I learned was that you don’t have to yell across the 200 feet of softball field at a young lady who just made an error to let her know she made a mistake! Part of this lesson includes helping these young ladies to understand who it is they are playing for. They don’t work through blood, sweat, tears, lace marks on their body, they do not compete; they do not play to please their coaches, their parents, or even their own teammates. They must understand they play the game to meet the standard they set for themselves. It is my responsibility as a coach to help them to set that standard, to make it achievable to avoid self-oppression and self-doubt, to make it measurable so they can celebrate when they achieve it, and to ride them out on my shoulders as they achieve and exceed their own standards. This is how a coach becomes a mentor.

My beloved left fielder who has been with me for 4 years had a can of corn hit to her in a pivotal game, and I saw the white of her eyes look at the runner right before the ball ticked off the edge of her glove. I knew she was looking at me afterward to see how I would respond. So I tapped my chest to let her know, I love you kid, I know you made a mistake, but I also know that you know that you made a mistake. On the next play, reach the bar you have set for yourself kiddo and don’t worry about me.

Fastpitch Magazine

Mom Made me Tough

Mom Made me Tough

Mom Made me Tough Written By Bill Boles, Jr

Mom created a standard that few could live up to. She raised three productive and successful boys by herself (dad put us in his rear view mirror and never looked back). She took the bus downtown every day to her job at a school, and she had her boys in church every Sunday morning, Sunday and Wednesday nights. She was strict and borderline mean…and she had to be.

What was even more remarkable about her is that I can count on one hand, the number of my games she missed, baseball, basketball, or football. Her favorite though was baseball. I would always see her walking up with her clunky rainbow-colored lawn chair and her collapsible little umbrella under her arm. She was there for every highlight…when I was 12, she saw me hit a game winning home run and the coaches hoisted me on their shoulders, she saw me impale myself on the dugout fencing to make a catch at 14 and I insisted on finishing out the double header. She was there through High School when I was swarmed after the games by scouts, college coaches and yes girls. She was there, mom was always there.

She was an athlete and a coach in college and played basketball in a day when girls only played half court and in a skirt but she knew the landscape of student sports.

She instilled respect in everything we did and especially when it came to her sons and their coaches, and their teachers, and their pastors, and their youth leaders, and their bosses, store clerks, mailmen, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.

She did her part as a parent, she loved the game and I remember our long talks where I confided everything to her. She had experienced enough hard knocks and disappointments in life that she didn’t build a hedge to shelter me from injustice or from being a victim or having an entitlement mentality. She raised me to navigate those inevitable things I would face throughout my life and my career.

As I grew older if I brought up a perceived injustice by my coach, she listened then got fired up and equipped me with ways to figure it out on my own. Never once did she kill the coach behind the fence or with a texting campaign (there was no such thing as texting back then, but you get my point).

Recently on Facebook, I saw a photo with a saying, Coachable kids become employable adults, let your kids get used to someone being tough on them, its life, get over it. I would add, …and they will appreciate it when they become adults.

Now back to mom, I now can see that if she had discussed with me what awful people individuals and coaches and bosses and pastors, and teachers were, that I would have absolutely no regard or respect for authority as an adult, nor would I have a willingness to learn something new from every person I come into contact with.

I recall on one occasion in a game when I was 14, I hit a triple, and I was standing on 3rd base smiling at my good fortune. At the end of our next practice, the coach tore into me and told me I shouldn’t be smiling during a game…that I had to be tougher. I remember I welled up with tears, and thinking of all kinds of things to say and I stood up from our meeting and immediately started running our “lap” route. I ran until all the other guys were gone but the coach stuck around. I told him that if I went home angry at you, my mom would chew my butt out if not give it a whack or two and running was the more preferable choice.

I remember telling him that I loved baseball more than anything else and that I had to be happy playing this game. From then on this coach and I formed a bond that exists today. My mom didn’t even know about it. And if she had I can assure you she wouldn’t have taken my side, nor would she compromise the reputation of this otherwise great coach and mentor in my life by whining to other parents about what happened. It is the first time I remember taking ownership of my own actions, and I can describe in such detail like it happened yesterday.

Today I am a coach and I have witnessed a paradigm shift where parents have become overbearing advocates for their kids and they don’t talk to the coach, they approach other parents in an attempt to create momentum to gather torches and pitchforks to go after the monster in the dugout. Sure coaches always need on-going training and there is always room for improvement, but the coup happening behind the fence is a shame. I told my kids that I am not coaching them as 14 year olds, but as teachers, dentists, physicians, lawyers, computer programmers, accountants and moms. I wish there were more parents out there like my mom, she was old school. Even today, if I showed her this article, she’d say…deal with it and control those things you can control including yourself, then she’d swat me on the butt like old times.

Fastpitch Magazine