Managing a Girls Softball team
by Joe Kuceluk
This year I had an opportunity to manage a girls' softball team. The United Queens Softball Alliance contacted our website in the spring and requested managers for their league. I accepted the challenge of managing 12 girls (13 to 17 in age) whom I never met before, in a league where I knew no one. The team, the Indians, was sponsored by the Windsor Park Vision Center.
I've been playing softball since I was 11 years old but had no experience managing teenage girls. My wife, Mona, helped me by downloading ideas from softball sites on the Internet and I learned from watching other managers and coaches. However, not knowing all the "what to do's" and "what not to do's" we naturally brought our own ideas to managing a team. Consequently, Mona and I introduced a fresh new concept to the league by designing, printing and distributing a yearbook for each of the girls on the Indians. Mona took over two hundred photographs of the girls in posed and action shots and used her computer skills to produce an outstanding 38-page keepsake for the girls. It was quite elaborate, containing statistics, write-ups on each player, recaps of every game and more than 80 color pictures. I was told by parents and coaches that this kind of thing was never done before. The girls really loved it, as did their parents. I hope the idea catches on.
I was fortunate to have 12 fine young ladies on my team. I really enjoyed coaching these girls in areas of the game that they needed to improve. The reward for me was seeing a positive change in their game.
Although not having children of my own, I have to admit that my paternal instincts unexpectedly kicked in as I found myself doing extras for the girls and caring for their well being. Sometimes it was little things like giving them my jacket to wear when they were cold waiting to play, providing water for them to drink when the days were hot and waiting with them when their parents hadn't yet come to pick them up long after the game was over. I was also very careful to reinforce their successes on the field and remind them that they will do better when they missed a play or struck out. I found that when I made a change in the line up it was best to explain to them why I was doing it so they would not think it reflected on poor performance or that they were in disfavor with me.
I found myself reacting to their insecurities, trying to remove any unnecessary self-conscious behavior. There was one girl on the team who wouldn't smile for any of the pictures. I asked her about that and she confided that she was self-conscious about the spaces between her teeth. She happens to be one of the prettiest girls in the league. After the last game she must have been feeling so good about herself she forgot about being self-conscious for a moment and smiled in one of the group photos. I reproduced the photo and enlarged her face and gave it to her so that she would see how pretty she looks. So you have to ask, why did I go so far with her on this point. Well actually I had no intentions of doing so but when I saw her happy smile in the photo I thought I'd show her how pretty she looks. I remember being self-conscious when I was a teenager because I was very skinny. At that time one could count all the bones on my chest and I was self-conscious to the point that, if I was at the beach and girls were around, I'd wear a shirt. I thought that my bony chest made me unattractive just as this young girl believes that the order of her teeth make her unappealing. Fortunately, when I was a teenager, a female friend of mine told me that she did not even notice what I was so sensitive about. I have been shirtless at the beach since (of course nowadays one has a hard time detecting any of my bones). I guess I wanted to pass on the same kind of help to this particular young girl. We all waste so much time worrying about nonsense and I did not want her to continue feeling badly about herself when there was no reason.
The team's parents were very supportive. There was one game when we were short one player so to avoid a forfeit I telephoned missing girls from the field. A mom got her daughter out of bed, dressed and at the field in 10 minutes. I found that parents' support is essential.
On the field we ended the season 5 6. Next year when I manage I will use the experiences of this year to build a winning season. I plan to video tape the girls hitting, catching and throwing so that they can see what they are doing and that may help them improve their game. I may want to get outside professional help. Perhaps I can contact ex-major league ball players to put on a one-day drill camp. A game between the coaches and all-star players may be fun too.
I always look forward to playing with the Windsor Park Adult Softball League. Thank you, Maurice, for bringing it all together and setting up this web site for without it I wouldn't have had the rewarding experience of managing the Indians. Just like when we get together Sunday mornings to play, the young ladies on the Indians, whether they won or lost on the field, were all winners!