The long reach of coaching influence
When you’re coaching it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day aspects of it. After all, if you’re a team coach there are practices to plan, tournaments to schedule, equipment to order, insurance to purchase, lineups to make out, etc.
If you’re a private coach there is (hopefully) a procession of players, each with different needs that must be considered and planned for, scheduling to do, fields or facilities to work with, promotional materials to get out and so on.
So in all of that it’s easy to lose sight of the longer-term impact you might have. That’s why I wanted to share this article today. It’s about a top-level high school volleyball player named Kate Kiser and how she got to be that way, but bear with me. It’s also a softball story.
In the article, the reporter asks Kate which coaches had the biggest impact on her athletic career, and Kate very kindly named me. What makes it interesting is that this is a volleyball article and I coached her in softball pitching and hitting. Kate stopped playing fastpitch softball a couple of years ago to focus on volleyball, and clearly it’s paid off for her. Not just in local accolades but also in the colleges that are recruiting her.
While I didn’t teach her how to set, or serve, or dig or do the other stuff volleyball players from what she says I did have an impact that wasn’t sport-specific. What better reward could there be for a coach than knowing you’ve had a lasting effect on a player?
What makes this success story of Kate’s more remarkable is that she wasn’t always a superstar. I first met Kate when she was 9 (I confirmed that with her mom Kim, a great lady if there ever was one).
Kate had an interest in softball and wanted to pitch. She and her mom came in to the facility I worked in at the time to give it a try. I was pretty booked up, so they had to start lessons at 10:00, which is pretty late for a 9 year old, but they were there every week. After some early progress we started doing hitting as well.
Yet when she went to her first travel softball team it was a rough ride. The coach had his favorites, and Kate didn’t see the field much. In fact, I remember hearing about at least one out-of-town tournament where she didn’t play an inning all weekend. It was rough, but she never gave up.
Fast forward a few years and by 14U she was usually the talk of the tournaments she played in. She was a dominating pitcher and a powerful hitter. Some great travel coaches gave her the opportunity to demonstrate her skills and she blossomed as a softball player. It didn’t just come out of natural ability, though. She worked hard to get there.
Around 12U, I think, she started getting involved in volleyball as well. She quickly worked her way up the club ranks and started attracting attention. By the time she got to high school she had to make a decision on which sport to play. She went with volleyball (obviously), although I can’t help but think her heart is still on the diamond since she mentions it first when listing sports.
Still, while I hated to see her give up softball it’s hard to argue with the results. In addition to All Area and All Conference honors, she’s also been named to the All State team. As I mentioned, a lot of top schools are looking at her to play there too.
On top of all this, she’s a great student, with a shot at valedictorian. She wants to become a doctor, and I have no doubt she will not only do it but become a great one. She may just be the one who cures cancer. I wouldn’t put it past her.
So coaches, there’s something to keep in mind. While you’re teaching the game of softball you may be conveying other more important things to your players as well. You never know where it might lead.