I have volunteered more of my time to help coach the Junior Varsity baseball team at the school in which I am conducting my student teaching. I thought that it was wise because I hope to coach baseball or softball when I get a full time teaching position, and I thought that it would be useful to have a little experience doing it, even though it was dumb given all of the time commitments I already have. However, it has been great. I have learned a lot about coaching and baseball. What I learned most is that kids are not getting the support they need in order to compete. So many of our players have not been playing ball for more than a couple years, and they are already sophomores and juniors in high school. It is unfortunate that they have not had the benefit of playing in the summer or in Babe Ruth leagues beyond school. There are so few players that my high school could not even field a third team for freshmen and sophomores like most schools. In one sense this is an advantage. The high school I went to was highly competitive and I was not big enough, strong enough, or fast enough, when I went there, to make the team. At least this way everyone gets to be on the team.
While participation is nice, competitiveness is nice too, and my JV team lacks the latter. In fact they are so not competitive that they have not won a game in a few years. So far we are 0-5, and there is not much hope of winning this year if things remain the same. It seems that the kids do not know how to win. Their morale is so low that after the first inning, they practically give up. Ground balls find their way to the outfield every time, and pop flies have a tendency to fall no matter how long my players have to get under them. Runners get picked off and opponent's batters have a tendency to walk or get hit by a pitch. Things go from bad to worse and worse even still. It is not a pretty sight.
But why would I write about this? What can I learn from all of this? I learned that heart which coaches and players often talk about is a real phenomenon. It is something that keeps you playing hard no matter what the odds. It is something that does not allow you to give up. Something that keeps you from throwing in the towel. I don’t know if I can instill it in my players, but they need it for sure. Friday they didn’t make it through four innings or one hour before we threw the towel in. Tuesday we scored our first run in four games, but didn't have a hit. It seems they are losing before they even take the field. They need heart. For myself, I will keep going out there even though they seem to be a lost cause, if for nothing else, because there is still a chance that they will find out what they are missing.