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Four years ago, I came home from my first evening as an elementary basketball coach and asked my wife, “What did I get myself into?” I had coached junior high basketball for more than a decade and was so used to players having some grasp of the game that I was startled by the range of ability in 3rd grade, from players who had probably never bounced a ball before to those that knew proper shooting form.

At the end of May, I did the same thing for baseball. I came home from my first night as coach of 3rd and 4th graders and reiterated that exact same question to Michelle. Again, the range of abilities included those who were afraid of any ball coming at them to those who could muscle an inside pitch into the outfield.

Based on how far those basketball players have come in four years, I had to keep reminding myself that it should happen in baseball too.  Hopefully in four years, I’ll be able to see the same progress on the diamond as I have on the court.

Why do this? I promised Anton that I would coach him for a sport if he wanted, just as I have for Jayna. He enjoys baseball, and I’m happy to help guide these young men in my favorite sport. I get to be a dad in a different role. The conversations we had on the way home from games, commenting about different things that occurred, were priceless. It’s the same thing I’ve had with Jayna over the years with basketball, and I love it!

And this is where it got tough. Jayna played the same nights as Anton this summer. Luckily, his season was shorter and involved a couple of bye games, so I’ve gotten to watch a decent amount of her softball games. But it kills me to miss any of them. It’s just not the same to have Jayna tell me about something that happened.

This has happened before, but I wasn’t always as concerned about the ballgames at younger ages, when the coach pitches and not all the rules are consistent. Now that they both play what I call “real ball,” I want to soak in every moment I can. Those conversations I mentioned didn’t happen after the earlier ages, but now we can talk and I can teach/coach as we spend that quality time together.

Being a dad is such a privilege, and I was even more inspired to be involved after I got to attend the Father of the Year festivities at Target Field this year when Olivia and Lexie won tickets because of their essays and Olivia’s dad was a finalist for the big award. Seeing those girls with their dads and how much they had mutually respectful relationships made me want to strive to be as good a dad as Doug and Tim are already.

Being a coach is a big way I try to do that. I’m able to share my love of sports with my kids and also continue doing a job I’ve always enjoyed. That responsibility for developing a group of youngsters into a competitive group of athletes is a heavy burden, but one I’m glad to have. I’ve also been lucky to share the load with a couple of fine gentlemen: Todd Born with basketball and Rich Mueller this year with baseball. I’ve seen groups of kids where only one parent has ever stepped up to help in any sport, and that’s an Atlas-like load to carry.

I strive to find other things in common with my kids, areas we can talk about and form memories around. Jayna is a voracious reader and has given me some books to read this summer. Anton and I read comics together and enjoy watching comic book-related cartoons and movies. I’m not always around as much once school starts and sports begin, so I find the time I can, especially in the summer.

Not all dads have schedules like I do and can have all these opportunities. But I do know some dads who have crazy busy work schedules and still are invested in the lives of their kids, so I always think a happy medium can be struck. Whatever the activity is, I want to try to have some interest (a little tougher with things like Minecraft and Pokemon that I know little or nothing about). When the kids are excited, that’s generally a good thing.

I’m no Father of the Year candidate, but I enjoy working toward the goal of being the best dad I can so my kids can retain positive memories and use those to be good parents themselves someday.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is harbinger, which means one that foreshadows the approach of something, as in, “Watching the team with many large, strong players enter the dugout was a harbinger of many balls hit to the outfield.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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