Monday, September 4, 2017

The True Rewards from Coaching

Today is Labor Day Monday. But Saturday was the best day of my holiday weekend. The best day I've had as a coach in a while actually. And I didn't even pick up a bat or a ball. I didn't even leave the house.

I got a call Saturday morning from Huntington, WV. It was one of my former players on the other end. I hadn't seen him in almost a decade, but had often wondered how he was doing. He was a 12-year-old kid the last time I had any direct contact with him - a kid with a ton of heart, desire and passion to succeed...and great parents, who pushed him to be the best person he could be - and encouraged me and my coaching staff to do the same during his three years with us.

He found me on Facebook a couple of months ago and called from Huntington, WV because it's the home of Marshall University, where he and his Miami (OH) teammates were about to begin their football season - his senior season as a starting defensive back.

We talked about the "good ol' days," how we and our families were doing, and how his team was looking. We talked about how some guys have turned out after their Little League days - some guys having real trouble in their lives, and others who've really got it together - and this guy seems to be doing really well. He's an awesome kid - just like he was at age 12.

I told him how I've changed as a coach over the years and how my perspective has evolved regarding what really matters. Conversations like that get you thinking about the legacy you'll leave. Apparently I made enough of an impact on this kid that he would call me a decade later on the morning of his senior season opener. Wow. We as coaches have such an awesome opportunity to impact our players' lives. I just hope there are others out there who have been affected positively by their experiences with me. I hope the good far outweighs the bad. I hope my own kids at home have gotten a good enough dose of the positive side of Coach Merchant.

Obviously I give credit to the parents for how our players turn out. But just to have this connection after all these years - what a great day, which ended with me watching a college football game like I never had before - just hunkered down, with no channel changes, just following number 14 around the field the whole game, watching him do what he loves, and thinking about our conversation, his parents in the stands and the great job they've done raising this fantastic young man.

How rewarding to have these types of relationships. I am realizing that this is the true reward from coaching and all those hours of hard work - and fun. That's what it's all about. Man, I love my "job." Happy Labor Day, everyone.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Chill Out - It's Winter

It's early February and in some parts we're still waiting for winter to truly arrive. In the Carolinas, winter often pays us a brief visit, only to disappear and soften us up before a harsh, cold reminder that it's still basketball season. But despite this, the wheels of the youth baseball calendar have been set in motion for some time.

January brings us the new year - and lessons, clinics, new bats, cleats, gloves and a load of excitement for the new season. "Hope springs eternal." February brings us tryouts - and nervous parents, gossip, conspiracy theories and complaints about who is or isn't doing what right.

I've been known to dabble in my own share of cynicism from time to time. And I can be a harsh critic of what's wrong with youth baseball too. But I've seen the game from all sides over my nearly two decades. I can tell you there are no conspiracies in February. There may be poor communication about how things are handled, and varying opinions from yours, to be sure. But no one has it out for your son. He's a kid. So you don't need to start worrying or complaining before you even sit down in the bleachers.

And if you're one of those nervous parents, worried that your baby won't get a fair shake at tryouts, I can easily tell you this: bashing other players - other children - about who has an attitude, a foul mouth or just "isn't that good," in order to prop your own kid up on a pedestal - that doesn't work and only tells people you have your own growing up to do.

So be positive, be classy and avoid the dregs of sports parent conversation this February. Let's all just chill and wait for that last blast of winter to put a freeze on things, so we can then restart and have fun when spring arrives.