We don’t play with Barbie dolls… we just play with bats and balls.
We don’t wear no mini skirts…we just wear our softball shirts.
We don’t paint our nails bright red…we just play softball instead.
–Disco Panda cheer
Tonight, my softball team, The Disco Pandas, is in the playoffs. I am a first-time coach for my daughter’s 3 & 4th grade softball team. It has been an amazing season.
I was floored the first time I heard the above cheer coming from the dugout. It gave me hope that little girls do indeed want to do more than play with dolls. These girls are awesome. They are kind. They cheer each other on. They are brave. They are tough. They want to win.
My philosophy is that everyone gets to play the infield. I didn’t relegate the 3rd graders to Right Field. Anyone who wanted to try pitching, got to pitch. Star infielders who wanted to be catcher (which basically would take them out of the plays) got to catch.
This sometimes raised some eyebrows among the parents – but it’s about the girls. It’s about building confidence.
My personal highlight was when my daughter asked if she could pitch in the middle of the season, just before the start of a game.
She had never pitched. Had never practiced pitching. I wasn’t sure if she could even reach the plate from the pitcher’s mound. But more than any of that, it was so out of character for her. She’s a worrier. She gets nervous trying anything new. Anytime we asked her if she wanted to try something (basketball, piano, softball) she said, “No.” But we just wanted to help her try new things and see what she liked. We signed her up anyway – and she ended up loving them – after some tearful, resistant beginnings.
So seeing her bright eyes and big smile, asking to pitch, made me well-up. I was so proud of her to be finding her confidence.
I had her throw me a few balls from the sidelines and it looked like she would be able to reach and I said, “Wow – you’re doing great. Sure. You can pitch.”
She walked out to the mound, with her head high, full of optimism. I was petrified for her.
She threw a couple balls (way out of the strike zone) and then her first strike. Very cool. Then she struck out the batter. Then another. The third batter got a hit and her team backed her up and made the play. 1-2-3 inning for Miss Lily.
One of life’s great moments.
There are certain moments in your life that stay with you – turning points. I think this was one of those moments for her. Finding the courage to try something new and going for it. I honestly don’t remember if we won that game or not – but I will never forget her running off the mound with a big smile – and a new sense of confidence. Who knows where this moment will help take her in life? I have noticed a new spring in her step.
When these girls started the season, many didn’t know where Left Field was and had to be reminded not to toss their glove up in the air during the game. They have come a long way. We won 4, tied 4, and lost 2 games. (And we have never lost the After Game Relay Race – which we are quite proud of!) More than anything else, these girls have all improved – both as softball players and more importantly, as people.
It’s single elimination for the playoffs – so tonight could be our last game. But it has been a real joy working with these young girls. I am so proud of my Pandas. Wish us luck!
Video – Disco Pandas Go Jump in a Lake (One EXTREMELY hot afternoon, we were playing an away game and after the game we discovered a lake behind the ball field. We let the girls jump in – in their uniforms! Go Disco Pandas!)
One of the new things I tried during my Year of Action was coaching. Coaching Softball – 9 and 10 year old girls – The Disco Pandas. The experience was amazing and taught me so much. These have been some of my most popular blog posts – enjoy! (HINT: Read in order, starting from the top, to get the full flavor of the season.)
I haven’t had a baseball mitt in 35 years – so I’m borrowing my son’s. I am a new coach for my daughter’s softball team.
I was nervous to try my hand at coaching. Not about the coaching but about the parents. People take this all VERY seriously. It’s a little intimidating. Plus, there are very few women coaches – 2 to be exact – even though it is an all girls league. But, I thought I’d give it a try.
I’m loving it.
My team, “The Disco Pandas”, is off to a great start. (If you can’t tell, we let the girls choose the name.) We’re (surprisingly) undefeated – with 4 games under our belt.
I get questions like, “Which one is left field?” and “Where do I stand?” (at home plate.)
One girl, trying out playing 2nd base for the first time, asked me if she was supposed to have tagged the runner. The ball had been hit to the pitcher and was nowhere near her. I said, “You have to have the ball to tag someone.”
She said, “Oh…now I get it!”
It reminds me of the first time I played golf. I hit a great drive my first time up and was feeling proud of myself. Only to be deflated moments later when I took out a tee for my second shot on the fairway and was informed that you can only use a tee on your first shot.
It is very humbling to try something for the first time.
Back to the “Pandas.”
Last week, we were playing a very intense team from another town. (Again these are 9 and 10 year olds – so I am still somewhat baffled about what is fueling the intensity of these games.) I don’t believe in the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality or not keeping score – but it shouldn’t have to be cutthroat either.
Success for me is having the girls support each other and cheer each other on, and to get everyone playing. I want them to try all the positions, to improve and gain confidence, and hopefully to learn which one is left field and which side of the plate to stand on.
Speaking of home plate, at last week’s game one of my youngest and smallest players, who had never come close to hitting the ball during practice, was up to bat with bases loaded and two outs.
Her first swing was in the dirt (and looked a lot like my golf swing). The next swing was way over her head. The crowd was cheering and shouting and it would have made the most seasoned of players, nervous. I can’t even imagine what was going through her head.
She stood in there. Unflappable.
It reminds me of the many young people who are graduating and going off and trying things for the first time. Being nervous. Being afraid. Having no idea what to do.
My advice would be that we could all learn a few things from my young Panda at the plate. She stood in there and kept swinging. She didn’t know what she was doing but tried anyway.
You need to keep swinging even though you may miss and may look foolish. Because sometimes – out of the blue – when you keep trying, you may get a hit and drive in the winning run – like my young player did.
We gave her the game ball and she looked up at me with big eyes and said, “What do I do with this?”
“You’ve already done it! You’re the star of the game.”
So to all those who are about to graduate or try something for the first time, think of my “Disco Pandas” and be brave. Get in the game. Keep swinging.
Getting dressed this morning it dawned on me that I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Or rather, you can tell a lot about your life by what you are wearing.
I used to wear a business “uniform” every day. I haven’t touched these clothes in months.
I don’t do the “pjs and slippers thing at the computer” – that they always show in commercials – though either. I don’t lounge around all day. I am just as busy as I was before but my attire is more relaxed and so am I.
Now, my sneakers and t-shirts are my “go to” items. I’m at the gym 4 mornings a week and coaching softball two nights a week. I never used to wear jeans. I have 3 pairs. None of them fit. Two are too big (now that I’ve lost 4 1/2″ off my waist – thank you very much) and one is too small (for now anyway!). I’m doing laundry all the time to keep up with my limited casual selection.
So I’m going to go pick up some more jeans and enjoy my full (empty) closet which is a nice reminder of this amazing gift I am living.
What does it say about your life when you only have “work clothes” and very few “play clothes”? Get playing!
I wouldn’t have thought to put this on my Bucket List but I would recommend it: Be in a parade. On a float, if you can. It’s a ball.
Yesterday was our town Christmas parade. Friends of ours were organizing it and said that if the kids wanted to come by the high school early, they could probably find a float for them to squeeze in on.
Turns out, we had our own float. Just the four of us. On a big gorgeous float with us waving. I was cracking up. We would see people we knew and I got a kick out of watching the recogmition on their faces when they saw us – Hey it’s the McCormicks! What?
I loved the kids faces along the parade route. So innocent – just smiling and waving. I laughed the whole time. My kids couldn’t figure out why I was laughing so much. Me either really. I was just happy. It was a beautiful day. Everyone was smiling and enjoying the parade. The kids in the parade had amazing, adorable and clever costumes. And the sheer surprise effect of just showing up and being put on a big float.
I heard some kids asking their parents about us and how did we get to ride on the float and the parent said, “They must be very special.”
We felt very special. Thanks Brandie!
Life’s simple pleasures.