My first year as a junior varsity baseball coach has officially come to a close. We finished 13-8 – a good season, especially after starting 0-4 in early April. We had a great mid-season run in which we won 12 of 13 games, and we could/should have won four of the seven games we lost, as they were all 1-2 run games.
The three things I preached all season were the importance of attitude (heart), ability (hands), and adaptability (head). Because of the nature of JV baseball – games bumped, umpire no-shows, guys transitioning from varsity – the adaptability point became a favorite joke for the team (as well as our only hope of making it through with our sanity).
A personal highlight was working with JV assistant coach, Slade Johnson. Slade played four years at WCA before playing ball at Wheaton College, and he's starting down the path I just finished – taking classes at Covenant while beginning his teaching career at WCA this coming fall. He brought energy and experience to our team, and we co-coached our way through the year pretty much on the same page the whole way through.
We had some Field of Dreams moments as well as some scenes straight out of The Bad News Bears. We had a variety of personalities on the team and some players with multiple personalities on the field. We got better as the season went on and learned to play the game with intensity and pride. We made mental errors that led to physical ones we had to shake off, get over, and move past. Parents were supportive and got behind us, and Megan and the girls were our biggest fans.
In addition to trying to help the guys learn the fundamentals of baseball, we had plenty of opportunities to help them learn some fundamentals of life; sports – especially team sports – are so good for this. Some things I heard myself say repeatedly this season:
- Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
- The only thing you can control when bad breaks happen is how you respond.
- Sometimes you have to deal with bad or unfair calls, so start now.
- It's only the first inning; relax.
- Respecting those on your team can sometimes be hard, but it is not optional.
- Don't make excuses; take responsibility.
- There's nothing you can do about it; it's not your fault.
- Let me do the coaching; you do the playing.
- Win humbly; lose graciously.
- Play the game and have some fun.
While we had a few injuries and the occasional sore arm, nothing was paralyzing or fatal, which is not insignificant when one considers the number of baseballs flying around practice, warm-ups, and games during the course of a season. I'm sure we had a few bruised egos here and there (cursing, throwing equipment in frustration, or showing up late without reason guarantees time riding pine), but those heal eventually and "build character" as my father used to say about all things hard.
As much as I could write about the season, this picture with Mark sums up what WCA JV baseball is all about – smiles, smudged eye black, and dirt on the uniform. Love it.
(Special thanks to George Sneed and David McFarland for a season of great pictures.)