[bluebox]Earlier this year, I had the privilege of speaking to a children’s literature class at the University of Memphis. The class had been assigned a reading of Coach Dave: Season One and was to submit questions prior to my visit. The class’s questions were excellent, and I answered as many as time allowed on that day. I have divided the students’ questions into several topic groups, which I will address here on the blog for all of my readers.
Today’s topic: Dealing with Adults[/bluebox]
Questions from Students: Dealing with Adults
1. What exactly is your reasoning for particularly the dads being the ones critiquing the coach? Was this a way to introduce the idea that bullying or peer pressure exists at all ages?
Maybe it is because baseball offers so much time between pitches for its fans to converse. Maybe it is because every dad is at least a little skewed on his own son’s abilities and potential. Maybe it is because baseball dads know a little more about baseball because of their own experience in the game. Whatever the reason, every team has ’em–dads who would have done something different any time the team is not enjoying the success that the dads feel they should.
Peer pressure most certainly exists at all ages. Dads “help” their sons jockey for position, often moving from team to team until like they feel like they are in the best situation. Rarely, however, do they enter the realm of what most people of reason would consider bullying. Given the nature of youth sports, I’m sure there are some outliers, but that is not the intent of the Coach Dave dads. They exist as a reflection of the make-up of most youth baseball teams. One of my beta readers, a baseball dad himself, told me that pretty much all of the dads from Coach Dave’s all-star team had been present in some shape, form, or fashion on most of the teams on which his son had played.
2. What made you decide to make Rooster the critical, judgmental parent that seems to grace every organized sports team?
My readers love Rooster. Yes, he is critical, and he is judgmental. But he is also teachable. Like Jesus’s disciple Simon Peter, Rooster speaks first, listens second, and learns third. Everybody knows a Rooster. Many people can look in the mirror and recognize a Rooster.
Rooster doesn’t spell well in his text messages or speak particularly eloquently, but he can point the others on the team to the best lunch in every little town the team plays during the all-star season. In Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars, Rooster introduces the team to a “mean hamburger” and a tasty po-boy. By the time the summer is over, Rooster is one of Coach Dave’s most staunch supporters. From beginning to end, though, he makes no bones about his opinion of Coach Dave’s nemesis, Fletcher Brandt.
3. How did you come to the conclusion of naming one of the more outspoken, critical, and judgmental parents “Rooster”?
As I began to develop the character who would eventually become Gary “Rooster” Hamilton, I started with the observation that there always seems to be that one guy around the baseball fields who got stuck with a nickname as a kid and never outgrew it. Physically, I wanted him to look like any athletic days of his own were far in his past, not at all congruent with the intensity of his involvement with his son’s team. When I began to consider hair color and complexion, I came up with the name Rooster.
My Aunt Sissie collected roosters of all sorts; one of her old rooster coffee mugs sits in my window sill, so maybe that helped me come up with Rooster’s name, too. Rooster just seems to fit.
4. Why did you choose to tell this children’s story from the point of view of an adult? What, in your opinion, does this add to the story?
Youth baseball is something families experience together. Coaches may have difficulties dealing with adults, at times, but a youth baseball team can be like one big family for months at a time. When the Little Fella’s season was over, he said good-bye to new friends, and so did I.
As I wrote last week, my ideal readers for the book are dads and sons reading the book together. I think both will learn what youth baseball is like from the other’s perspective.
5. Have you ever had to deal with criticism from parents, like in the book?
Uh, yeah, a little. I wrote about a number of those experiences in Stories from the Roller Coaster. I have been cussed out from atop my own dugout during a state championship game. I have had a former lawyer argue before the school board for my dismissal on behalf of parents who didn’t bother to show up. I have had the mother of one player tell another player (somebody else’s kid, mind you, and to his face) that although his play had earned him a spot on an all-tournament team, he “still sucked.” I have had my home vandalized by my own players–only to be discovered by my then-eight-year-old daughter who did not understand. So, yeah, dealing with adults is not unique to Coach Dave.
What I have tried to create in the Coach Dave series is a core group of dads who get behind what the coach is trying to accomplish and who are vocal in their support of him, especially to others who are unsure. Most coaches will tell you that the challenges they face from adults who ought to know better never seem to stop. It’s a wonder that any right-minded adult would ever volunteer to coach, much less choose it as a profession. When coaches, players, and parents are all pulling in the same direction, though, youth sports can be a pretty special experience. I created Coach Dave to reflect some of the aspects of youth sports that are still very good.
6. Do you believe that parents are the reason why many young athletes do not pursue in fulfilling their dreams in specific sports they love?
I believe there a number of reasons young athletes do not pursue higher levels of their sports. Yes, I do believe that overzealous parents play a role in some players losing their love for the game. Just as big a factor in player burnout is playing a sport year-round. Statistics have overwhelmingly shown that multi-sport athletes have a much better chance of making it to the next level than those who focus on a single sport. Other factors include fewer opportunities as players age, unresolved bad experiences, and so forth. Others simply find new interests. Some players who might have once subscribed to the baseball mantra of “chicks dig the long ball” also come to understand that “chicks dig the guitar.”
I believe that parents should be guiding their young athletes down two parallel tracks. The first is an encouragement for their children to give their reasonable best effort to their sport. The other, and just as important, is to be developing character through their sport that will prepare them for a life after sports (which, as Coach Dave says, generally lasts much longer than their playing careers).[bluebox]I hope you have gained a better insight of why I write about dealing with adults through a fictitious coach through these excellent questions from students. Check out more questions and answers about Coach Dave and values storying: