I have a 7-year-old son. My 7-year-old son seems to have an endless supply of energy bound up somewhere in his core. A couple of years ago, my husband and I learned that if we didn’t want to spend significant time dodging Nerf darts and maneuvering through jury-rigged obstacle courses in the comfort of our own living room, it was in our best interest to find active outlets for our son. These days, I spend a lot of time on one ball field or another, snapping photos or cheering from the sidelines. I’m a solo sideline sitter; my husband has always played an active role, helping out where the coach needs it.
The problem with that setup was that my husband was always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Bad analogy? What I mean to say is that though he always pitched in at our son’s practices and games, he had no final say in batting lineup, for example, or where practices were held. The logical conclusion we came to was that since he was already spending so much hands-on time on the field, he might as well volunteer his time to be head coach so that he could at least schedule practices closer to home.
Come to find out that when you volunteer to coach a Little League team, they expect a whole lot more than coaching out of you. Our particular league runs a snack bar that is manned by volunteers. While the league encourages coaches to assign shifts to the players’ parents, they are also quick to point out that ultimate responsibility for manning the snack bar during the team’s appointed time lies squarely on the coach’s shoulders. As does providing much of the equipment necessary for practice, and arriving early for and staying late after games to set up and tear down the field. The league also insists that the coaches are responsible for putting in further hours still, providing the manual labor to get the ballpark in order for opening day. On top of all that, coaches are also supposed to not only persuade players’ parents to pitch in, but to ensure that they fill out volunteer forms and turn them in along with copies of two forms of identification and the deed to their houses. Okay, so maybe I was kidding about the deed. You get the point.
Here’s what I find perhaps most troublesome about all of this. The league seems to have a committee for everything—a bunch of people in charge of being in charge. They send out emails demanding that coaches put in more hours and show up to more “clean up days” and fill out more forms. I’m being honest when I tell you that government agencies have nothing on the red tape of Little League. I can’t help but wonder if each of those committee members took the job so that they could blast out demands over email rather than, you know, man a shift in the snack bar with the working class.
I don’t hold a league office or sit as chair on a committee, though over the years I’ve given time as a Sunday school teacher, Girl Scout troop leader, cheerleading coach and team mom. Never have I witnessed such disrespect for the valuable time of volunteers. There’s no reason to wonder why it’s so difficult to recruit coaches. My guess is that most coaches volunteer for the position because they want to teach the game of baseball to an eager team of kids. An informational meeting and a snack bar shift are understandable but the rest is borderline ridiculous. Please, Little League officers, don’t mistake willingness for servitude, lest your pool of volunteers dwindle further.