There were times last year as 4-year-olds battered me with pool noodles that I pulled a “Murtaugh.” You might remember his as Danny Glover’s curmudgeonly cop in the Lethal Weapon movies of the 90’s.
His signature line?
I’m getting too old for this shit.
Particularly in my “solo” classes, where it was I alone acting as the ringmaster of the preschool circus, at class’ end, I would feel more than weathered, I’d feel withered. Coaching for me has always had a tinge of fear. I walk in with a game plan, but am always terribly afraid that it will be a disaster. The kids will leave having learned nothing, and the nutty coach will have turned them off to baseball forever because it’s as stupid and boring as he is.
That fear has been compounded by a sense of the frivolity of my endeavor. I put aside my writing to invest in being a coach. Writing was why I left my very worthwhile job at the Union of Concerned Scientists—a job I believe I was good at, and helped to make a difference. And now, I’m a 47-year-old man running around with an orange hand puppet and telling kids to run through the bag a first.
What the hell am I doing?
And so I decided this year to scale back. I’d do some private coaching, but turn back to my writing, something that I believe can make an impact, and perhaps is a bit more age and career appropriate for a middle-aged, Middle East history major. And I’d save a load of cash not re-upping my insurance, to boot.
And then over the weekend, I received this message:
I’ve emailed you a couple of times since our son took your class in 2013 or 2014, but I just wanted to thank you again and let you know what an impact your enrichment continues to have on him. My husband and I were just talking about it today, how your class helped him learn how to throw and catch, and gave him the confidence to play with other kids that extended to general self esteem. We have since discovered that he has some learning disabilities that make tasks that may be intuitive to others, very difficult for him. He needs to be instructed on things that come easily to most kids, and playing catch is one example. You broke throwing and catching down into easy steps in a manner that he could understand. I can’t tell you enough how much of a positive impact your enrichment had on him. He now has no problem jumping in to any game of catch, whereas prior to your class a game of catch would typically result in tears and self-deprecating comments.
In an area that has so many high-achieving kids and parents, it can be really discouraging for parents of a child with learning differences when it feels like everyone else’s kid is on travel everything. Thank you so much for providing a fun, supportive, non-competitive opportunity for kids to learn how to be like other kids. Your impact as a coach will stay with him and our family forever.
Maybe I am not solving global warming. And my books haven’t hit the shelves just yet. But this message reminded an old coach of young children just what a simple game of catch can mean to a kid, and to a family. How while we rightly focus on the way we educate our kids in school, there is a real and enduring value in finding the right ways to teach our kids to play.
I just paid for my insurance today. Come spring, a dozen preschoolers will be pelting me with their Super Hero throws. I may indeed be too old for this shit, but I am a coach.
And coaches matter.