charlie-brown5 Well, the softball season starts two weeks from Friday.  Surprisingly enough, despite all the rain we’ve had the past few days, we managed to get in practice yesterday afternoon.   A few random thoughts on the subject:

♦  Overall, I think the team is beginning to shape up pretty well.  Most of the drills that I’ve been doing have really been designed to help me figure out the gels: what they can do, how hard they’re willing to try, etc.   Most of them are much more closely bunched together in terms of talent than I had feared.

The team bookends are the Long Lanky Veteran I wrote about a while back and the dear, sweet, gawky little thing whom I believe I also mentioned.  The LLV quickly dropped most of her opening session sarcasm – which leads me to think it was prompted mostly be shyness – and has slotted in well with the team.  I plan to make her my starting 1st base because of her reach and experience.   The DSGLT is proving, well, maybe not to be athletic material.  I plan to play her a lot, however, simply because she goes at it like a hero and never stops smiling.

In between them is an assortment of chatty, pleasant, (sometimes) energetic kids, most of whom are not necessarily consistent, but all of whom every now and again have pulled off something pretty durn good.  What I’m hoping for is to build up the consistency. That’s what will win ball games.  You betcha.

In the meantime, there’s a world of difference in the question, “Where should I play her?” depending on whether you are considering maximum tactical advantage or minimum tactical disadvantage.   The former is a delight to ponder, the latter a headache.

♦  And what of my own child? Well, I’m beginning to wonder if the sight of ol’ Dad mixing it up with a gang of the Other hasn’t awakened some jealousy in the gel.  Several times she has started sniping or griping at me on the practice field, leading me to threaten benching her if she doesn’t knock it off.  I will, too.

♦  On the other hand, the gel has also joined in on something that I believe is a sure sign that the team is starting to mesh: They’ve started giving each other nicknames.  Another thing – they are increasingly going out of their way to say goodbye and thanks to me when practice is over.  And I still love being called “Coach”.

♦  One nice thing so far: I don’t seem to be plagued by any hypersensitive parents.  We’ve had to make one or two tweeks here and there, but for the most part when I say come they cometh, and when I say go they goeth.

♦  Is there such a medical condition as “Manager’s Shoulder”?  I crocked mine last weekend hitting grounders and I seem to have re-aggravated it yesterday throwing flies.    I know that Charlie Brown once suffered “Manager’s Elbow” but my aches are higher up my arm.

♦  As well as a spot of fielding, we had our first session of batting practice over at the cages yesterday.  I confess to you that of all the skills, the one I know least about (or, I should say, am least able to teach) is batting.   “Keep your eye on the ball, get the bat-head around quickly and don’t try to kill it” is about the extent of my transferable knowledge at this point, and I find that I am going to have to do some fast reading.  I covered yesterday by telling the gels just to have fun and do their stuff, as I wanted to (again) figure out where everyone was.  This got me musing on the question of how much teaching is a matter of staying just a step or two ahead of your student.  Rayther a lot, I would suspect.

♦  The batting cages were a hive of activity.  Despite the fact that we all have nominal reserved time, the league commissioner was still running about like an air traffic controller left alone in the tower at O’Hare during the holiday rush.  We were a bit late and somebody else was in our cage when I got there.  When I politely inquired if they were with the team the next cage over, the coach said agitatedly, “Yeah, yeah. I’m just finishing, okay? I’ll be out soon, okay? I know it’s yours but I’m just about done, okay?”

Juuuuust a little defensive.  Makes me think he’s been caught poaching before.

I smiled and said, “No problem – we’re not in a hurry.”  I felt like saying, “Jeez, pal, chillax a bit.”

♦  I have found that the biggest challenge of managing so far has been avoiding what I have come to think of as “Conscience of the King” Syndrome.  This manifests itself in all sorts of ways:  Somehow feeling responsible for the weather; worrying whether you are teaching the gels everything they need to know, and teaching it correctly; feeling like all the parents can see through you and your pitiful attempts to look as if you know what you’re doing (and are comparing notes);  constantly having to remind yourself that no, they are not a group of highly trained and dedicated athletes, they just are a mob of ordinary elementary schoolgirls.

Then again, these are the same sorts of neuroses that I tend to have in general.  So perhaps learning to dispel them at the ballpark will help me combat them elsewhere as well.

Of course, I suppose that will depend on what kind of season we have.