My husband coaches a little league baseball team in our town. Our sons have long since grown up, but he kept talking about the “good old days with the boys” so I made him fill out a volunteer coaching application and told him to get out of the house. The little league gave him a minor’s team which consist of boys and girls aged 9 and 10. He came back from the first practice with a smile on his face and could not stop talking about how much fun he had. If the kids on his team have half as much fun as he does, this is going to be a great season for them.
I went to his second practice to see what all the hub-bub was about. It was a hot Saturday afternoon with no wind to speak of and a lot of kids running around with as many baseballs being tossed back and forth. My husband seemed to be in his element. I felt very happy for him. But it got me wondering…
What if someone with chronic pain wanted to coach a little league team as passionately as my husband? Would they even be able to do it?
I know I sat in a chair the entire hour of practice and it hurt for me to stand up as my first few steps looked like 90-year-old lady limps heading to the car. There was no way I’d be able to conduct a little league practice the way my husband does. But maybe I could apply some of my techniques to tweak his practices into something even a chronic pain sufferer could still execute and enjoy.
First things’ first, know thyself. Do not try to be a “regular coach” running around the field and personally demonstrating the correct position for fielding a ground ball. Get one or two great parents who can help with those kinds of things.
Another great idea is to see if the league has anyone who has signed up as an assistant coach but didn’t get assigned a team. This happened for my husband and his assistant coach is a young college kid who loves baseball. It works out perfectly because HE is the one running all over the field demonstrating correct positions while my husband is free to delegate and watch the entire practice to see what needs work and what looks good.
Next, don’t be afraid to bring something to sit on during practice. Many great coaches throughout high school and college sit on those buckets that practice baseballs come in. They dump out the baseballs and replace the lid as a make-shift stool to sit on. Me? I’d rather sit on a chair like this folding one.
Infield practice does not have to be “hit” to the players. You can just as easily give the assignment to throw grounders to each infielder to one of your better players as you sit in your comfy chair and give out encouragement and instruction.
When conducting a simulated game for more advanced practices, you can use your chair to sit behind the pitcher and become the umpire for the game. This will allow you the best seat in the house to observe your players in action and what improvements need to take place before the next game.
Also, as the umpire, you can cheat. That’s right, cheat. If a kid is at the plate and has been having trouble getting a hit this year, you can call anything close a “ball” and he or she can get a walk and at least participate in running the bases. The kids like running as much as anything else they do in baseball.
Finally, it’s time for the game. But you can’t stand as the third base coach. So what!
Let your number one assistant be the third base coach. This means that you get to be in the dug out with the kids more. You can delegate where they will be playing later in the game and can keep confusion to a minimum as the game progresses. Believe me, the other coaches, umpires and parents will appreciate that later in the season.
It is possible to do all the things you used to do with chronic pain. You may not be able to do them in the same way or with the same effort as when you were younger or pain-free; but it is still possible.
Don’t give up the things you love because of chronic pain. Never lose sight of the things you love to do. If it seems impossible to still do them, talk to someone who might have some other insight into being able to keep your goals…
Just in a different way.
Until next time,
Dr. JB Kirby