Tipping Pitches: Fatherhood: Separating "Coach" from "Proud Papa"


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fatherhood: Separating "Coach" from "Proud Papa"

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Today was the third game for the Sabertooths, of the eight and nine year-old flag football division.  I've been the defensive coordinator for this group, although I admit there's been little to coordinate.  Make sure they know where to stand.  Wait for the ball to move.  Go!  Get the quarterback!  Maybe slightly more complicated than that, but not much.

The Sabertooths have had a rough start to the season.  Three games, three losses.  Today, although another loss was registered, we saw progress.  After the first game, an honest evaluation was we were 10 plays away from a good game.  Too many bad plays.  After the second game, we were five plays away.  Today, two.

Couldn't move the ball on offense.  Defense looked good overall, but just a couple of plays where we were left reaching for flags were our downfall.  And you also have to give the opposition credit when they simply run a great play.  They faked me out, so I can't fault my players for being faked out.

So we lost, but it was progress.

Yet, I left that game beaming with pride.  Michael, my oldest son, is regularly the smallest or second smallest kid on his team -- no matter whether he's one of the older or younger kids.  He's just small.

He's all heart.  He's not that strong.  He's not that fast.  But he's a fighter.  A cancer survivor.  And I will bet any money that he's always the smartest kid on the field.  He knows what he's supposed to do.  He may run like Phoebe from Friends, but he is aggressive and knows his role.

Today, Michael scored our team's only touchdown on a run up the middle.  Yes, a run in which he should have been swallowed up by kids twice his size, Michael just kept trudging forward.  As my wife says, it was like he was running in slow motion.  But, while the other team kept reaching and flailing for his flags, he just kept running forward.  To the end zone.

But the proud moments didn't stop there.  We have one kid who is heads and shoulders above the rest on both sides of the ball.  He's the quarterback on offense and my "centerfielder" on defense.  I call him my middle linebacker and bring the safeties to the line.  Then, my centerfielder simply roves or blitzes, depending on the play.  He's awesome.

But Michael firmly established himself today as my second most dependable defensive player.  Think your outside linebacker needs to be big?  I disagree.  He just needs to be smart and aggressive.  The other team underestimates him.  He may not be fast, but he is quick off of the ball and doesn't waste time.  He runs to the quarterback -- hard -- with all he has, and doesn't let anyone slow him down.  Two flags today, and both for huge losses.

As a coach, you want to treat all kids the same.  As a father, I could not contain my emotion when he made those plays.  I think everyone watching that game knew who Michael's father was.

Did we lose?  Maybe.  But it felt like we won.

Giving Michael some last minute instruction before the ball is hiked.


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