Why I Coach

Posted on 13-06-2012

I think it’s important in life to frequently ask ourselves why we do certain things.  I’ve always tried to do things for the right reasons and I’ve found that the occasional self-examination can go a long way towards making sure I’m properly motivated in all areas of my life.

I first started asking myself “why am I doing this?” in high school when many of my friends quit baseball in order to play lacrosse.  (Please keep in mind that I’m married to one of the best lacrosse coaches in California and this anecdote is in no means “anti-lacrosse” nor is it exclusive to sports).
When I asked my friends, many of whom I had played ball with since little league, why they were leaving baseball for lacrosse the most common answer I got was, “so I can get into an Ivy League school.”  In the area I grew up in and at the private school I went to in Washington, DC, lacrosse was absolutely the feeder sport to the Ivy League, and with so few high schools across the country having lacrosse programs, my friends were right – good grades and decent lacrosse skills greatly increased your chances of being recruited by an Ivy League school.
That said, their answer never made sense to me.  I could never image dedicating that much time and energy to something that I didn’t love.  For some of them, it worked out – they got recruited and got to go to a great school.  For others, they got got overlooked by college coaches and ended up applying to college based on grades alone (nothing wrong with that, by the way), but wasted 4 years of high school playing a sport they didn’t really enjoy.  Still others used lacrosse to get in and then promptly quit as freshman because they never really loved the sport in the first place – it was just means to an end.  As any college athlete can attest, D1 sports is such an enormous time commitment that you’ve got to really love it to keep playing.
I never played ball for any reason other than that I flat out LOVED it.  I didn’t play in middle school in order to try to make the high school team.  I didn’t play in high school because I wanted to get recruited and play in college.  I didn’t play in college because Iwanted to play professionally.  I was fortunate to have all those things happen for me during my career, but the “next level” was never the motivation.  I just kept playing because I loved every second of it.  I loved practice, I loved games, I loved my teammates, I loved hitting, I loved catching, I loved fielding groundballs, I loved catching flyballs, I loved pitching, I loved working my butt off and seeing results – there was (and still is) literally nothing I don’t love about baseball.
So what does all this have to do with the title of the blog?
Every year around mid-May – if I’m going to be totally honest – I start getting pretty burned out.  By that time, I’ve done over 1100 one-on-one private lessons in 5 month’s time and have thrown somewhere close to 110,000 batting practice pitches in the cage.  My body is hurting, I’m emotionally drained from giving everything I have in me to every single lesson 40 hours a week, and I can’t wait to take a week off just to decompress.  (And every single time I take even a few days off, I can’t wait to get back on the field!)  But sometimes, when I’m completely exhausted physically and totally drained mentally, I’ll get home from the cage at 9:30pm on Friday night while my friends with “normal” jobs are out at dinner or a movie or spending time with their families, I ask myself, “why am I doing this?”  Not in a cynical way, but just as a little check-in with myself to make sure I’m coaching for the right reasons.  
Many times a year, when I ask myself that important question, something like what I saw earlier this week immediately gives me my answer and I know that I’m still in it for the right reasons.
The 2012 Summer Camp season started this week with the half-day camp in Palos Verdes for the 4-6 year olds.  Every year, I always have several former campers ask to volunteer as junior coaches and this week is no different – I’ve got 4 former campers who probably, all combined, participated in over 75 total weeks of camp as players from the time they were 4 year olds until last year.
Now they’re helping to coach the next crop of players and it’s just awesome to be around their enthusiasm for baseball, desire to help the little guys, and to see their sense of responsibility to the local baseball community (whether they fully realize it or not) to ensure there is another generation of little leaguers who fall in love with the sport.  They genuinely want to give the little guys in camp the same incredible experience they had as summer campers.  There’s no pay, there’s no thought of the “next level,” there are no fans in the stands watching them coach, no pictures in the newspaper,  no “coaching all-star team.”
There’s just the love of the game and the joy of being on the diamond.
My 4 junior coaches this week are all good ballplayers and I hope they get to play as long as they want.  However, like everyone who has ever put on a uniform and spikes, at some point their playing careers will end.  But their passion for baseball, their sense of community, and their feeling of responsibility to the game will stay with them forever.
Knowing that I played a role in developing their love of baseball is why I coach.  It’s also why after just one week away from the game, I can’t wait to get back on the field again and couldn’t be more fired up for Summer Camp – and for all the right reasons too.
See you this summer.
Dan

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