63. Coaching the Coach

63. Coaching the Coach

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Coaching the Coach

Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you are.

~Cherie Carter-Scott

My best friend Billy and I were coaching a twelve-year-old baseball team for competition in open league tournaments. The roster included several ballplayers who’d been pegged as top-notch talent. Our excitement grew with each practice as the boys’ skills continued to develop and we realized that this team could compete against the best in the area.

We wanted to add one more player to the roster and held a last tryout for the only boy who came. John Stern, Jr. was an above average player who could help us in situations and provide the backup that every team needs as it goes through a season of as many as sixty games.

We began league play, and in no time the problems began. Only nine players could participate at one time, but all twelve boys wanted to be in the game. Billy and I rotated them so that each received equal time. However, the dads who stood on the hill at games never accepted the fact that their sons would have to share playing time. One of the biggest complainers was John’s dad.

These grown men complained and second-guessed Billy and me on our every decision. If their sons failed to get hits, we had kept them from swinging their bats. If they missed ground balls, we had placed them in the wrong positions. Dads expressed their displeasure to sons, and before long, our players were only half-heartedly playing.

Midway through the year, I decided to resign as a coach of the team so that some of the discontent might ease. John Stern, Sr. jumped at the opportunity to fill the vacancy. He moved in and took over the team. Even Billy couldn’t stop him from bullying his way in.

Stern’s first move was to bench my son. Dallas was a good ballplayer, but Stern meant to send a message to me through my son. In the next several games, Dallas didn’t rotate into the line-up; he didn’t receive even a minimal amount of time in games. The man benched Dallas with no intention of allowing him playing time in another game.

I held my tongue for a while, but eventually, the injustice of it all got to me. I confronted Stern, and he responded by throwing Dallas off the team! I couldn’t believe that my son was kicked off a team I’d help to build. My blood boiled, and words were exchanged between him and me.

For the next couple of years, I couldn’t even think of John Stern without becoming so angry that my blood pressure spiked. When I saw him at games throughout the coming seasons, I turned and walked away, refusing to speak to a man that I hated for the pain he’d inflicted on my son.

Dallas moved on to high school baseball. Twice a year, we played against the school that John Stern, Jr. attended. By then, both boys played first base and hit the ball well. That meant they’d spend time together on the base. What I discovered was that they played hard against each other, but they also talked and seemed cordial. Still, the boy’s dad had treated my son wrong, and I had no intention of ever speaking to him again.

By his senior year in high school, Dallas had proven himself to be a solid baseball player. He’d hit the ball, made good plays at first base, and pitched against all the teams in the area. That meant he’d faced John and kept him off base with strikeouts, groundballs, or fly-outs.

After one game, my son and I discussed his performance. I mentioned how he’d shut down John, and Dallas said to me, “Dad, it’s time to quit being mad. His dad was a jerk, and he hurt me back then, but I’m okay now and don’t care. He can’t do anything anymore. Don’t be mad.”

That Dallas told me it was time to get over this anger surprised me. I realized that for years I’d allowed John Stern, Sr. to sap part of my life’s energy whenever I turned my anger loose. My son was right: The time had long since come and gone for me to let it go. I did; I forgave John Stern for the ill that he’d done to Dallas.

Almost immediately, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My mood lightened. Baseball returned to something I enjoyed as I watched Dallas compete. When I saw John Stern, I spoke to him. No, we would never be friends, but I no longer allowed anger and hate to swell inside every time he came around.

Dallas completed his senior year of baseball and moved on to college. He didn’t play then because he said other things were now more important. I hope I’m not the reason he gave up the game. I do know that my son taught me about forgiving, restoring my energies, and enjoying life more. I am slower to anger and quicker to forgive because of what he taught me after one baseball game.

~Joe Rector

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