During these times when there is so much unpleasant news, we are supplementing our usual writings on interest rates, retirement plan distributions, and long-term disability insurance with lighter stories. Sensible People (as we like to call ourselves) are sensible, of course, but we are people too. We thought we would share a bit about what we do when we are not hard at work. Frank Napolitano wrote about volunteering with a bird sanctuary here.
I loved baseball as a child, so naturally I signed up to coach t-ball in 2006 when my son was five. I continued to coach him as he got older, all the way up to high school. It was precious time with my son and his buddies, and some of the other parents with whom I coached became great friends of mine.
Teaching kids to love the game
Even as my son advanced through the baseball leagues, I continued volunteering to run the t-ball program in our town, coaching four and five-year-olds once a week each spring. Please understand, this is not high-level, competitive youth sports. This is about having fun and learning a little bit of baseball. It is “the bird” and “feed the giant” to help the kids learn to throw, and “the alligator” to help them learn to catch ground balls. By the end of the season, we hope the kids know which hand to put their glove on, to run to first base, not third, after hitting the ball, and that when (or if) they catch the ball they are supposed to throw it in the general direction of first base. Most of all, if they can’t wait to come back the following week, then we have succeeded.
Even though I have been at it for fourteen years, coaching t-ball has continued to be fun for me and is not something I want to give up. My official title is “league commissioner”. How can I ever give up a job where I’m known as the commissioner? Also, I have to admit, it’s fun being recognized around town by the five-year-olds. Sometimes, at the grocery store or the town dump, I will hear a whispered, “Daddy, that’s Coach Chris”. This is my fifteen minutes of fame.
Also, spending time with five-year-olds keeps me young and keeps me laughing. You can just imagine some of the things I have heard and seen. I’ve seen kids putting their batting helmet on backwards, the girl who had ballet class after t-ball and wore her tutu with her baseball shirt and hat, and kids trying so hard to learn to throw that they threw the ball backwards and fell down. I’ve also seen the look of intense determination as the boy who was barely taller than the tee tried to hit the ball, his shirt down around his knees. The list goes on. And I really enjoy connecting with some of the younger families in town, paying forward the help that parents that were a few years ahead of me provided as I was learning to coach.
Non-Profits and COVID
I have missed volunteering this spring – the first year since 2005 when I haven’t coached. As a member of the board of directors of our local baseball organization, I have also seen some things that influence many non-profit organizations during this pandemic. Even though revenues are way down, some expenses remain — we still have insurance, field maintenance, a web site, and the costs of our part-time league administrator who must (among many other things) process hundreds of registration fee refunds. I am trying to be extra generous with my charitable giving this year. These organizations, largely staffed by busy volunteers with full-time jobs and family responsibilities, may not get every decision right. They’re bound to be less buttoned-up than the larger, more professional organizations who are struggling themselves in these strange times. We need to be patient, forgiving, and generous with our volunteer time.
Commissioner Chris’ Observations
I will close with a few things I have observed as “the commissioner” that can be translated into life lessons.
- Enthusiasm can be infectious
- A high five or a fist bump goes a long way
- Uniforms are great, and if you can wear spikes and eye black, so much the better
- It’s important to shake hands at the end of the game (though we’ll see where this goes in the COVID world)
- It’s great to have a team cheer
- Patience is really valuable
- With a little bit of practice, you can make a lot of progress
Here’s hoping we can “play ball” some time soon.