Butch Says Coaching Little Kids is a Blast!

When I started at Purdue in 1966, I majored in Agricultural Economics. That next summer, I coached the Darlington Little League baseball team, which consisted of 11 and 12-year olds. I had so much fun that I decided to switch my college major over to Education so I could be a teacher and coach. Upon graduation, my former sixth grade teacher retired that same year, and I was fortunate to be hired to replace him at my old school! I taught 5th, 6th, and 7th grade Social Studies and coached basketball for those same grades. I loved it! I wanted to coach the little kids in baseball during the summer, but back then a teacher had to earn a Master’s degree within five years after they had received their Bachelor’s degree…so it was college for me again during the next five summers. By the time I finished, a coach had been hired and I was out of luck.

In 1983, I joined the Sheriff’s Department as a deputy, but since I worked the night shift, there was a short time period in which I could perhaps coach baseball again. And in 1986, the local Legion post needed a coach for the little kids’ coach-pitch team. As it happened, one of my sons, Clark, was on that team. I was hired!

The best thing about coaching little kids is that the main emphasis is not on winning, but teaching the fundamentals, and letting the kids have fun and learn to play as a team. And I certainly did have some great kids on my team! There was no pressure from the parents to win, and all of the kids were able to play. Since I was the one who pitched the ball to them, I made sure they could hit the ball almost every time, and have a good chance of getting on base.

The boys and girls really got along and worked well together. They cheered for each other and gave 100 per cent. We played ten games that summer, and the kids won every game. And they always congratulated the opposing team as good sports should. But even if they had lost every game, they still would have had fun. At that age, on a very hot afternoon, sometimes the kids’ attention would get sidetracked. During one game, I looked out in our outfield, and one girl was chasing a butterfly…while a boy had his baseball pants down around his ankles…while getting rid of some of the sweet tea he had consumed prior to the game! The parents sitting in their lawn chairs got a big kick out of that!

I coached this group for another year until the boys and girls had their own separate teams, and then I coached the boys’ team. Clark was the pitcher, and he was phenomenal…striking out almost everyone he faced. All of the boys played very well together and had another winning season, even though there was no pressure placed on them. They were just a special group of kids, and it was great to watch how the boys had developed their skills during that time.

But alas, my wife and I had our fourth child in 1988, and I needed another paying job to make ends meet. To my dismay, my coaching days ended, but I still have those wonderful memories of days past. If any of you folks want to have fun, and you enjoy working with kids, then please consider coaching a sport…whether it be baseball or any of the other sports here in Montgomery County. You will love it!

– John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.