Every coach has them, those stock phrases they use in particular situations to impart some wisdom on their players. As the past season unfolded, I found myself turning to a few coachisms that had been drilled into my head growing up.
When I was 13, I played for an old-time baseball guy. Every local league has one. You know him. The guy who’s been around for a hundred years, whose kids and grandkids have long outgrown baseball, but is still out there coaching. Mr. Eastman was as old-school as they get, rough and gruff but he knew baseball. When I told him I played first, he informed me “First is where old ballplayers go to die.” I played third for him. I can’t remember who our first baseman was, but I imagine his was a long season. For the record, I loved playing for Mr. Eastman.
I also pitched for Mr. Eastman. After each pitch, I would leave the mound and walk halfway to the plate to wait for the ball. Thus I was introduced to the idiot’s walk as in “You know what they call that? They call it the idiot’s walk. You an idiot?” In his kind and gentle way, Mr. Eastman was explaining it is the catcher’s job to get the ball back to the pitcher and it is the pitcher’s job to conserve energy for actually pitching. I used it with the 8U team though I did change the phrasing slightly.
The varsity coach in college had many sayings, only a few suitable for adults let alone little kids. Make a bonehead error and you heard “Hey [player’s name]. There’s a town named after you. It’s called Marblehead.” I haven’t used this one yet, but I do look forward to the day the kids are old enough. I’ll probably have to mention the town is in Massachusetts.
Occasionally a coachism provides situational teaching. While I’d been playing first base since I played for a New York City All-Star team when I was 12 (my dad saw the 60+ kids lined up at shortstop at the first tryout and told me to “get the first baseman’s glove, you’re a first baseman”), it wasn’t until I was 16 that Coach Santos gave me this nugget on fielding the position, “If it’s hot give it a shot, if it’s slow let it go.” Little kids like to be involved in every play no matter what position they’re playing (think of all the t-ball scrums,) and I can’t think of a better way to help temper the little first baseman’s urge to go after every ball hit to the right side.
Over the last two summers I played travel ball, I played 100+ games for Carmine. “Losing the second game of a double header is like kissing your sister” was Carmine’s standard after we won the first game of a twin bill. Want to reach a male teenager? Make a reference to girls. Given we played double headers on Saturdays and Sundays and went 104-12 over the two summers I played for Carmine, we heard it a lot. I used it this past summer when we played a game the day after our first win. Well, I tried to use it. As I went into my spiel, I thought maybe this isn’t appropriate for 8 year olds, so I adlibbed “. . . is like kissing your mom.” Silence and eleven “WTF Coach?” blank stares. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I went back to Carmine’s version and I got the appropriate “yucks” and “ooohs” from the kids who promptly went out, played flat and got mercied. Oh well, I still got to use my favorite coachism.