April 25, 2014
My rookie season coaching girls’ fast pitch is in the books. Final tally? Two wins, nine losses. Coaching middle school girls ages 11 to 14 was a lesson in futility and humility. However, I did end the season with a win. Although, not quite a win I can quantify through my stats. And when the dust finally settled on our maiden season, I reached a foregone conclusion: while their softball skills were questionable at best, these girls could sure play hardball.
As the season began, I made several futile attempts to “go back to the basics”. Asking the girls to demonstrate proper technique for catching and throwing is one thing. Expecting them to do so is another.
“Kunzmann, do we gotta use two hands every time we catch?”
“Yes, you do.”
A collective eye-roll moved through the group of girls, it was almost palpable; I shuddered. It was going to be a long season.
The girls never questioned me about anything I asked them to do again. They just didn’t do what I asked them to do. For them, it was that simple. For me, I never stopped trying.
“Put your glove all the way on the ground to stop a groundball,” I would instruct one player.
“You don’t hafta do that,” her teammate would tell her. And she wouldn’t.
“When you catch a fly ball, put your free hand over the ball to keep it from popping out of your glove,” I would instruct another.
“You don’t hafta do that,” her teammate would tell he. And she wouldn’t.
It got so bad by the middle of the season that I even had to forfeit one of our games. We were at an away game and my varsity catcher had forgotten her glove. I told the JV catcher to suit up. She said no. In fact, she flat out refused. And no amount of begging, cajoling, and/or wheedling could get her to suit up and take the field. So, I flat out forfeited.
And that’s how the rest of the season went: poorly. We were not a team, and we were certainly not a good team. The other teams in our division were so much better. The girls on those teams listened to their coaches. My girls listened to each other. My girls didn’t see the correlation, until it was too late.
It was the last game of the season and my girls had taken the field. I was in the dugout with my JV second baseman sitting next to me. We were watching our pitcher warm up. On the last pitch, our catcher yells, “Balls in, coming down!” The catcher is getting ready to throw the ball to second base, simulating what would happen during the inning if someone was attempting to steal second base.
Most ball players know that if a runner is trying to steal second, the shortstop takes the catcher’s throw and second baseman backs her up. Not on our team. And the JV player sitting next to me finally notices.
“Kunzmann, how come on the other teams the shortstop takes the throw when the catcher throws it down?”
“Because that’s the way you’re supposed to do it,”
“Well, how come when I’m playing second base, I take the catcher’s throw?”
I turned to look at her and said, “I don’t know, why do you take the throw?”
She looked a little puzzled and confused. “Well, that’s what they told me to do.”
“And who are they?”
“The girls on our team.”
“And what did I tell you to do?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted ashamedly.
“I taught you the right way to play second base,” I assured her.
“Oh, then I guess I should listen to you.”
I’m hopeful that next year she will remember this little ‘a-ha moment’ and give me another shot at coaching her. For now, I’m just happy that one of the girls came to the realization that she should listen to me. Now, maybe the word will spread.