By Barry Burleson
been involved in coaching youth sports since I was in
junior college. In fact, I cant recall a year since
about 1980 that I have not been involved in youth sports.
25 years. Thats unbelievable.
for this column came to me after coaching six games of
fifth grade boys basketball in eight days. Like most
folks, I dont really have the time to do it. But
its a passion. I seem to always be able to work it
into a busy schedule. I love sports, but more importantly
I love the kids. Theyre a joy to be around.
Theyre uplifting. They help ease the stress after a
long day at the newspaper office.
have told my wife Pam recently that they always thought I
was a quiet person. Thats until they hear me on the
sideline of a youth basketball game or outside the dugout
when Im coaching a youth baseball game. Im
constantly shouting instructions and always trying to
keep the youngsters focused and enthused. Maybe I do yell
too much, but truth is, I cant stop.
never coached football dont really know
enough about the game to coach it. But just last week I
was told I might be invited to a football practice, too,
to get the players fired up.
of coaching kids are many. Seeing the players smile is
atop the enjoyment chart. More than anything else, at
their age, I want them to have fun. And watching them
come together as a team and learn the true meaning of
teamwork are equally important.
The wins are
special, too. Take for instance our most recent one
Saturday in the Kirk Elementary Tournament. Our fifth
graders were going up against a strong team of fifth and
sixth graders, and we battled and battled and battled. I
saw fifth graders making big play after big play and big
shot after big shot. The winning celebration after
overtime was fun.
in the next game was a valuable one, too. We lost. They
your heads up. We played the best two teams weve
played all year and won one and lost one. Were
proud of you.
coaching thing all started when I was asked by Larry
Armstrong, park and recreation director, in Hamilton,
Ala., to coach an 11-12 year old baseball team. I had
just finished my senior season of playing high school
baseball, and as much as I loved the game and enjoyed
being around children, I could not say no.
season and all seasons thereafter have been learning and
rewarding experiences. I think it was in my second season
of coaching that I also made the step up to guiding an
all-star team. I dont think I had ever been so
first game, I reached in my pocket and tried to read the
starting lineup off of a dollar bill. The sheet of paper
with the lineup up on it was in the other pocket. I was
embarrassed. The kids loved it and laughed and laughed. I
think it helped loosen them up.
I later left
Hamilton and moved to Mississippi. In Fulton, I met Tommy
Chamblee, who asked me to help him coach, and he soon
became a best friend. We coached together for a few
years, and it was probably my most enjoyable youth
We had a
child one year who was experiencing problems at home. We
picked him up for practice and games and carried him
home, too. Its an example of how coaching youth
sports is about more than coaching. Its about being
a role model, sometimes almost filling the role of a
I even tried
to coach soccer when we lived in Laurel, and I
didnt even know the rules.
challenges have come in recent years of coaching my own
children, but so far so good. It has given me more
valuable time with the ones I love the most.
As much as I
enjoy it, Im really ready for a break after 25
years - slow down a bit. I hope to take it this summer. I
think I will buy some golf clubs instead.
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