David Schmoll: A Real Coach Dave
The occasion was my presenting a copy of Coach Dave: Season One to David Schmoll. David is the director of business operations for the Mississippi Riverkings minor league hockey franchise. More importantly to my family, he was the Little Fella’s summer baseball coach a few years ago, the one who gave the passionate, baseball-rich speech that Coach Dave, the book character, gives in Chapter 23.
I first thought of writing a book (and then a series) about youth baseball after that speech, so for that reason the title character earned the name, Coach Dave. I thought you should meet a real Coach Dave. Not the real Coach Dave–no, the character is a conglomeration of the best in youth coaching, though David Schmoll certainly fits the bill. Enjoy my interview with a real Coach Dave.
An Interview with a Real Coach Dave
Al Ainsworth: Favorite Major League Team
David Schmoll: St. Louis Cardinals
AA: Favorite Current Major League Player
DS: Mike Trout—He plays a hard game.
AA: Favorite Current Major League Movie
DS: Carolos Martinez–I just love how he has matured as a pitcher.
AA: Favorite All-Time Player
DS: Albert Pujols
AA: Favorite Baseball Movie
AA: Favorite Baseball Book
AA: How old are you?
AA: How old were you when you coached your first youth league team?
AA: Best youth league experience
DS: I think the best youth experience I ever had was coaching all-stars last summer. We had nine kids on our all-star team, and I was coaching the 11-year-old all-stars. We were playing in Winona, Mississippi, and we played a game against one of the Grenada teams. We had them mercied (10-run mercy rule) going into the (bottom of the) third inning, the fourth inning, and going into the fifth inning. We couldn’t close it out. It ended up being a four-and-a-half-hour game that we won 22-21, and we were exhausted. We had to play another game after that. Our field was pushed back two hours. We started our game when the field next to us was done for the day. We came back exhausted, dog-tired, and we won the next game 18-13. It was just a character day. They could have just folded up, but they came in and played how they knew how to play. That was the most proud moment I think I’ve had.
AA: What are your go-to phrases?
DS: Keep your head up.
Cheer on your teammates.
Stay in the box.
I’ve tried to go away from verbal because I find myself yelling enough, so I’ll just give ‘em a thumbs up instead.
AA: Do you yell in doubles?
DS: Always, sometimes in triples. You get into a rhythm. Sometimes, I’ll get ahead of myself and leave words out of phrases. I’ll be saying, “Keep your head up; you’ll get ‘em next time,” and I’ll hit “Keep your head next time.” The middle part will just be a jumbled mess, but then I’ll repeat it, and I’ll get it right. So maybe that’s why I have to do it in doubles and sometimes in triples to make up for the first time.
AA: What was your inspiration to coach at such a young age?
DS: I just loved the game. I needed something to do. I was broadcaster for the hockey team, I had just moved down in November, and when hockey season ended, I didn’t have anything else going on. I didn’t know anybody but the people I worked with. I wanted to do something to give back, and I’ve always wanted to coach. When the opportunity came to coach, I said I wanted to coach at least 13 and older. I got a call: “How ‘bout you coach 9’s?” I was not happy at all. It ended up being the best thing that could have happened, to be able to coach a younger group and work up with them for at least a couple of years. It was fantastic.
AA: What is your favorite skill to teach players, especially young players?
DS: I think just the mental side of the fundamentals of defense.
AA: What skills do you intentionally attach life principles to?
DS: Pitching and defense. Those are the two because in baseball defense (and I think it works in all team sports), when one thing goes down—say, shortstop makes an error—that’s a perfect life lesson teachable moment because in life if you make a mistake, you can’t throw your hands up in the air. You’ve just got to react to it and battle through it and do what you’ve got to do next. There’s a system. You make a mistake as a shortstop—the ball goes out into left field—you can’t sulk because if the ball’s hit hard, it may go all the way to the fence. You’ve got to know that you’re going to be the cutoff man, and if you’re not (there as) the cutoff man, then that ball’s going to get thrown in to second base or third base and is just going to get airmailed because you’re not there. Fundamental team defense, in terms of life lessons, is how I try to work (life lessons) in.
AA: What was your greatest influence as a player?
DS: I had a lot of great coaches. I think that’s really why I wanted to coach. My dad was always huge. He never was my actual coach, but every game he was there, we would talk. He would be the one who was throwing me BP, he was the one outside in our front yard with a wiffle ball bat and a tennis ball. He would throw me ground balls, tennis balls in the driveway where we had this little crack right in the middle. He would always try to hit it. I would get myself square to it, and it would hit that line and you didn’t know whether it was going to go left, you didn’t know if it was going to go right. I think he taught me the fundamentals of playing the game and then when I went and played with Coach Gregston and then Coach J.D. My freshman baseball coach, Ken Droege (currently the varsity coach at Rockwood Summit in Fenton, Missouri), was the one who taught me how to play the game the right way. You come to baseball ready to go, shirts tucked in, hats on right, and you come in and play the game the right way. You play hard for seven innings or however long it is. You don’t give up when you’re down by 13 runs. That’s probably another proud moment that I had just two weeks ago. We were down 18-1 at one point against Grenada going into the third inning. They could mercy us if we don’t score runs. We came in, we scored ten runs in that inning. I mean, just not quitting, play the game all the way through.
AA: What do you see as the biggest problem today in youth baseball?
DS: Parents. That’s the only reason I would ever not coach. You just get exhausted. There’s so much that you’re already as a coach working on. I mean, you’re thinking about 12 kids, sometimes more. How am I going to get the best out of all 12 kids? Not only that, you’re also trying to make sure you don’t set one of the parents off. You know, you’re getting texts like, “Where’s my kid going to play? How should I prepare my kid to play?” Why don’t you just prepare your kid to come play baseball? Just prepare your kid to have fun and listen and be attentive because I’m going to give him the tools and the skills necessary to be successful.
AA: What do you think is the answer to a lot of the problems with the communication between coaches and parents?
DS: I’ve never had a problem with a parent that I’ve had a pre-season meeting with—never had a problem. The only time I’ve ever had problems is when I was not able to have a pre-season meeting with all my parents. I like to think I’m an approachable person. I like to think I’m a likable individual. When we have that first meeting, I lay out this is who I am, this is what I’m about, this is why I coach, this is what is expected of you, this is what is expected of the kids, this is what I expect of myself, this is what I expect of my assistant coach, this is what we’re going to do, and this is how it’s going to happen. If you don’t like it, we’re going to have a long summer. If you like it, if you’re down with it, just let me do the coaching, and you sit back and be a spectator, a respectable spectator; we’re going to have no problems at all.
Early Response to Coach Dave: Season One
One of the consistent early responses I have had to Coach Dave: Season One goes something like this: “When my kids (grandkids) were playing summer baseball, we had too many Yankee coaches. I wish we would have had more Coach Daves.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting a real Coach Dave. Be encouraged–they still exist. I hope that through the book, we will inspire a whole new generation of Coach Daves. Please help get this book into the hands of youth baseball players, coaches, and parents everywhere. Together, let’s join with Coach Dave to make a difference.
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