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Coaching Kids and Tow Truck Drivers

Mar 16th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Baseball practice for my 8-year-old started last month. Last year, I chose to coach his team, for one simple reason: no one else would. Of course, it turned out to be a blast, and I wouldn’t have traded one minute of it — other than a few minutes interacting with parents and league officials. I learned more than I taught, including:

1. No matter how many times you tell a 7-year-old that his position for the inning is “Left Out,” he won’t get the joke.

2. When the coach pitches, there will be heckling from the crowd.

3. You really do have to send a reminder text to all the parents before every game and practice if you want them all to remember.

4. A protective cup worn upside-down is uncomfortable.

5. Your child will remember every speeding ticket and near-accident you’ve had while he was with you, and will recount it to others flawlessly at the most remote suggestion.

6. No matter how much a player appears to enjoy playing, when you tell him he is sitting out for the inning, he will probably celebrate.

7. If you look at the batter when you’re pitching, you increase the possibility of throwing the ball right at him.

8. The after-game snack is the pinnacle of sports accomplishments.

9. If the kid learns where right field is before the season is out, you’ve gained significant ground as the coach.

10. It is impossible for a fielder to distinguish any one of the 27 voices that are yelling at him to throw the ball to first base, second base, third base or home.

11. Don’t try to determine what the moms have in their water bottles — you don’t want to know.

12. Don’t tell your players that practice is over at Beer-Thirty. They will repeat it.

13. If you finish the game one player short, check the swamp in deep center field.

I had a blast coaching these kids, truly. It wasn’t a whole lot different than managing tow truck drivers. I will say that, generally speaking, the kids had better attitudes. They didn’t retain much of what I told them, but they appeared to be listening more than my drivers ever did. That’s not really fair, though. I’m thinking mostly of the drivers who gave me trouble. I had many drivers over the years who were a pleasure to manage. One thing I always appreciated was a driver who didn’t take things too seriously. I had a few who never seemed to get worked up about anything. One driver I remember could retain his calm demeanor even if I got worked up about something he did. It was helpful to me, because if he pushed the boundaries and I confronted him, it would calm me down when he reacted calmly.

On one weekend, the driver was patrolling an apartment complex parking lot for permit violations and towed a few cars, one of which belonged to a friend of a police officer. I was in a raspberry field with my kids and family friends, picking berries, when the officer called me on his cell phone. He started giving me a list of infractions that our driver had committed. I suppose I was irritated to be bothered by all of this on my “free” time, so when I called the driver, I had an accusatory tone in my voice. He let me rant for a few minutes, calmly explained what happened, and gave me room to retreat without losing face, which is a very valuable skill.

When I called the officer back and gave him our driver’s side of the story, he became livid. Having just spoken to our driver, however, I was able to remember his example and maintain my composure. Finally, the officer indicated that if we did not release the vehicle without charge, he would arrest the driver for vehicle theft. If we would simply release the vehicle, he would refrain from doing so.

I thought about it for a moment, and then told the officer something like, “If what he did really was vehicle theft, then it wouldn’t matter whether we gave the car back for free or not. You should arrest him either way. So go ahead and arrest him. And you’ll need to pay to get the car back.” I was calm, didn’t say anything else.

Do you know what happened? They came down and paid for the vehicle, and no one arrested our driver. Interesting.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper