Photos to store in our scrapbooks

As a youth coach, I was lucky that a retired gentleman named Jon decided to pick up photography as a hobby. He had a son playing in our league and loved youth sports. So nearly every game, whether or not his boy was involved, we’d see him beyond the outfield fence with a lens as long as his arm shooting photos. Consequently, hundreds of shots of my childrens’ Little League careers were captured on film and we have those to enjoy now, years later.

But there are so many moments, some funny, some poignant, some exhilarating, that my mind captured along the way too. And while our teams were fortunate enough to do a lot of winning, these instances weren’t necessarily about championships or trophies, but rather, about the kids I had the privilege to  coach through the years.

I remember seeing twelve year-old Colin come up to bat the first game of a new season. He was our lead-off hitter, great player – maybe the best in the league, I’d coached him since he was eight. And now, as we embarked on our final season together, it struck me: This was it. After this year I’d still be coaching, but never him again. And here he was, a player with so much confidence and poise, so different than the little boy I drafted, but still looking down to me to see what I wanted him to do.

There was Andrew, son of my best friend and co-coach, Jeff. Andrew would come to bat in a tense situation – crucial juncture in the game – and  I’d start to give him the signs. He’d smile and raise his eyebrows like John Belushi and I had to turn around to keep from laughing in front of the entire team.

And Jake. He was on my Little League team and my travel team. Earlier in the winter at a travel tournament, in typical Jake fashion, he’d dived for a foul ball near the fence. But as he did so his teeth smashed into a cement strip, causing extensive injuries that would require multiple oral surgeries and years of recovery. I was the first to him on the field that night and realized that this was a player I loved like my own son. Now, just a month later, he was at our first Little League practice of the season – my final as a coach. He had to wear a mask to cover his mouth and he still had pain, but he wasn’t going to miss a moment of the season. I told the team about Jake’s courage and tried to keep it together while I presented him with the ball I’d retrieved from his glove. Of course he’d made the catch.

And, obviously, there are thousands of moments with my own sons and daughter too. Moments that no one got on film or tape, but that will stay with me as long as I live.

There are many goals you will have as a volunteer coach. Run great practices, make your players better, have fun, teach them to work hard, and yes, maybe even win a championship. But as you embark on a new season of coaching, make sure you take the time to load some “film” in your mind’s camera. You want to be ready to capture as many wonderful moments as possible, for your scrapbook of future memories.

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