I coached an all-girls T-ball team. They taught me more than I taught them.
They are not a novelty act.
When I was asked to be one of the coaches for an all-girls T-ball team in a league filled with boys, I didn't know what to say.
Yes, it would be fun to be a member of my daughter's coaching staff and have her spend some quality time with her preschool classmates, but my mind started racing to other things...
"The only all-girls team in the league? Wouldn't it be intimidating to compete against boys every week? How could I possibly help these young ladies?" I thought.
"Um, yeah, sure ... count me in," I said. I wasn't quite sure what I was in for at the time, but I certainly do now that I have a few games under my belt.
Here are three things I've learned while coaching my daughter's T-ball team:
1. They reminded me how much words matter.
Right in the middle of our first practice, I found myself helping one of the girls swing the bat properly.
"OK, sweetie," I said. "Hold the bat like this."
She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and uttered, "My name's Edie."
That singular moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Although my intentions weren't malicious, I needed that wake-up call from a 4-year-old.
They aren't sweeties or honeys. They are girls with real names.
Do I want these young ladies to grow up thinking it's OK for men to address them with pet names at school, work, or anywhere else? What type of example was I setting with that "sweetie" stuff? Not a good one.
It's important to choose our words wisely when we're talking with our children because those words can have a strong effect on how they will view themselves in the future.
There will be none of this "Edie throws really hard for a girl" nonsense.
Edie just throws really hard.
2. Contrary to what some people may believe, they aren't interested in being "adorable" when it's game time.
As I walked my 5-year-old daughter to the field, I asked her what she looks forward to doing during games.
"First, I want to gobble up the ball (field the ball) in my glove," she said. "And then I want to keep my eye on the ball so I hit the ball, not the tee."
Then I followed up with a second question.
"Does looking cute matter to you at all when you're playing baseball?"
"No," she deadpanned. Based on the tone of her voice, it was like she said, "Why should I care about that?"
And she's right.
But when the Angels take the field on Saturdays, I notice that a lot of parents on both sides will say, "The girls are getting a chance to play! How cute!" or "Aww ... they are so adorable!"
I'll admit, it doesn't really get any more adorable than watching a group of 4- and 5-year-old girls in matching uniforms on the baseball field. It's just that these girls aren't participating in a novelty act. They want to compete, and that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
When they grow up, they'll learn that they can use that confidence and competitive spirit to be stay-at-home moms, coders, corporate leaders, or whatever their hearts desire.
3. They demonstrate one of the most important traits any kid can have: resilience.
In the interest of full disclosure, we don't really keep score during games.
It's T-ball, for crying out loud. It doesn't matter because if you're coaching 4- and 5-year-old boys or girls, getting a kid to run to first base in a straight line is a feat worth celebrating.
However, I'd be lying if I didn't keep an internal score in my head during each matchup.
And during the first week, we got smoked by the all-boys Royals team. It was baaaaaaad.
So bad, in fact, that I didn't know if many of the girls would want to come back the following week for another game against a different group of boys.
But you know what? The girls came back. All of them. They bounced back in a way that said, "That's not going to happen again."
And it didn't.
The coaching staff noticed that the girls showed an inner-toughness and a desire to learn and improve that was amazing to witness.
Speaking of which...
Their fielding improved.
Their hitting improved.
And they started having even more fun.
In a world where some people define toughness by running their mouths and talking a lot of smack, these young ladies demonstrated true toughness by getting back up after being knocked down by the game of baseball.
Because of that, I have a feeling they'll handle any curve balls that life throws at them (pun completely intended).
It's a "man's world"? Please. These young ladies know that they can compete with anyone. Including the boys.
As a dad with two daughters, I want them to believe they can do anything and be anything.
Being one of the coaches for this team reminds me that this message needs to be passed on to all of our girls. Their voices need to be heard in classrooms, living rooms, and boardrooms all over the world because whatever boys can do, they can do. Many times, even better.
Even though I'm one of the "teachers," I want to thank the Angels for reminding me how fun it is to be around (and learn from) such an amazing group of girls.