A Timely Cup of Coffee

You are not alone.  As a parent and coach of a kids sports team.   You will certainly feel like it a lot of the time.  The stress and lack of appreciation can get to the best of us.  The heat of the game and the summer’s day.  The pounding of everything.  No shade, no relief in sight.  Life just gets impossible at times.    The intensity of it all can override even the best effort and intentions.

As the Sportsmanship Director for Johnson County 3 and 2, a huge youth baseball organization of nearly 600 teams, occasionally we would have a parent cross the line and get tossed.  I write in my books about the time I “crossed” the line and got the old heave ho.  On the way home that night my son Will asked me, “Dad, why did you get thrown out of the game?”  I said, “Well buddy, I crossed the line”.  Literally, I was thrown out for crossing the 3rd base foul line.  In my defense, I did not know that was an ejection-able offense, (maybe a few of my interactions with the umpire added to the enforcement of the line crossing rule).  The point is that as I said it to Will, I realized I had definitely “crossed a line” with him and my team. 

Don’t cross the line.

One day I got a call from the Director and “Jim” had gotten thrown out.  Now “Jim” is a saint.  We thought there must be another guy with the same name.  It couldn’t be that Jim.  But it was.

So although I had never met him, I called him and asked him to go to coffee with me.  He agreed.

I was so humbled and empathetic as I watched him walk into the coffee shop.  He very quietly sat down and stared at me.  A saint…amazing man.

Tell me what happened that day you got thrown out.  Tell me about your day.  “The whole day?”  Leave out what you want.

Well, he proceeded…the first 4 hours of the day I was at the bank trying to renegotiate my business loan at the bank.  The next 5 hours I had car trouble in another town.  We looked at each other.  I smiled, “You didn’t have a chance”.  He says, “I knew I was going to get thrown out of something”.   He said, “I should have just gone home”.  Exactly.  Coaches, you should always have a back-up.  A guy or gal who can handle your team in an emergency, or on just a bad day. 

“To make matters worse, 2 innings after I got tossed, my catcher did to.  I have almost raised this kid and he couldn’t take it that I had been kicked out”.  Silently, I understood.  Catchers are like that.  He wasn’t even close to the play, he just couldn’t handle the game without his coach.  Like Will said to me, “I understand the umps were bad, but WHY dad did you get kicked out of the game.”.  Kids cannot stand it when parents/coaches act nuts.  No excuse good enough for them.  You with me?

The next morning, I got an email from Jim which read, "Dear Bill, thank you for a timely cup of coffee. I was getting ready to quit, but you reminded me that I wanted to do this: to coach my son and his twelve best friends through one of the sweetest stages of life."

So, I voided the catchers suspension and Jim had already served his.  I told Jim all I wanted his catcher to send me a little note telling me he got it.  “Dear Mr. Severns.  Thank you for forgiving me.  That was the worse day of my life.  My uncle pitches in the big leagues and I want to be just like him.  My dad took me to the office and I told them how sorry I was and that it would never happen again.  Thanks again for another chance.”