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The Fastpitch Bulletin, Volume 20, Number 15

03/25/2020, 7:45pm CDT
By Bob Tomlinson

It's Always About the Teaching

Hello Fellow Fastpitch Folks,

In these uncertain times it's really tough to get a handle on exactly what is going on. Trying to sort out the facts can be a tough job. 

I've written two or three other articles that have been posted on the website but not as Bulletins. Tonight's message is in bulletin form as it contains some other information all head coaches in the state of Wisconsin should be aware of. 

First, the WFSCA is hanging on to hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will decrease in magnitude far enough to allow for the all star games to take place. A week ago WFSCA President Brad Ceranski sent out an email to all head coaches reminding them that April 17th is the deadline to nominate seniors for those games. It matters not that we haven't started a season yet as the stats are really for the past three years for these seniors. So don't forget to nominate and be sure to ask your players if they will be able to participate if nominate. Do not nominate players who can't be there.

I have sent numerous emails to every head coach in the state as well. I offered every coach the opportunity to write a pre-season preview. For the 418 head coaches out there who have not written one -- you still have time. It's still the pre-season. 

Those emails to head coaches also included an invitation to write up a story about one or more of your most memorable games. I have been posting the ones that have arrived in my inbox. Tonight is the last of those that I have received. Milwaukee King coach Duke O'Keefe-Boettcher's story is posted now. You can find the headline on the home page of this website. 

Here is a story I wrote last week. I think the "pressure point" in the piece is one that everyone, especially young coaches or coaches that are just getting into summer fastpitch coaching.

It’s Always About The Teaching

The first coaching clinic I ever went to was in Minneapolis in the winter of 1975-76. It was a high-powered football coaching clinic with nationally renowned coaches such as Grant Teff of Baylor, Woody Hayes of Ohio State, Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State as well as some other notable coaches. There was also a high school football coach from about as far north in Wisconsin as anyone can get without getting wet. He was from  Ashland, on the shores of Lake Superior. 

His name was a Teddy Thompson. 

Teddy was probably in his 50s on the day I listened to him. He was not one of the headliners speaking at the clinic. Not by any stroke of one’s imagination. Teff, Daugherty and Hayes of course were nationally recognized Division 1 collegiate coaches. Nope, not even close. Teddy was there because he had tremendous success at Ashland High School. In the fall of 1975 The Oredockers again had finished unbeaten.

Saturday nights at the clinics tended to be nights where most of the hundreds of coaches who were at the Hotel Lemmington went to the pubs after the final speaker. Our coaching staff did as well. 

Except for me. 

Due to a tragic house fire during the night that I was part of as a fireman, Friday had been a long day.After returning to the fire station it was  about 4 am when I finally got to bed that morning. The drive to Minneapolis afforded me no sleep due to four other coaches in the van telling stories. A Friday night session at the clinic followed by a few cold beverages in the hotel lounge along with turning in well past the time of the night when Cinderella’s coach turned into a pumpkin all entered into my decision to stay in the room where I could get some sleep. My initial plan was to rise at the same time my internal clock always woke me, get some orange juice, a doughnut and see who the first speaker of the morning would be. 

Teddy was the 8:00 AM speaker. 

Needless to say, at that time of the morning the spacious banquet room which had been filled with coaches the night before filled was noticeably very empty. I’d say there were about 75-100 of the 600 or more coaches attending the clinic in that room to listen to him. Honestly, I was there because I had a great night’s sleep and the other four coaches had returned late and were all sound asleep and I didn’t want to just lie around in wait. I didn’t go to that session just to listen to Teddy Thompson. 

I’d listened to every speaker at every session on the weekend. All of them. For me, the greatest speaker at the clinic that weekend was Teddy. Now he is a member of the Wisconsin High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame (inducted in 2003). In his profile on the WFCA website it states, “Teddy is a friend and coaching legend. His knowledge of the game with the ability to teach it in a simple way is probably only second to his entertaining personality and love for his friends he established through coaching.”

The coaches that missed that morning session, especially the younger ones hung over in the hotel rooms missed out on some great coaching philosophy. Ted talked about a lot of things but not about technique. He must have understood that high school coaches listening to big-time college coaches talking about Xs and Os quickly realize that at their high school there are few or no behemoth lineman and linebackers who could bench press 300 pounds or more. Instead of talking strategy and technique he spoke about the importance of practice organization, creating relationships with the kids and a lot more. 

Just before he wrapped up his hour-long presentation he stopped and said something that has stuck with me since that cold,winter morning in Minneapolis. He looked out into the crowd and said, “Now listen to me. Especially all you young coaches that must not have gone out drinking last night. I am about to tell you the most important thing I have ever learned about teaching and coaching. If you don’t listen closely and remember this, you will go nuts in the world.”

Then he stopped for about 15 seconds -- took a drink of whatever beverage was in the paper coffee cup he held, wrinkled his face, put it down,extended one hand toward the ceiling and said, “Don’t ever try anything in a game that you have not practiced and practiced well enough to do correctly. It will drive you crazy and you will lose. Heck, at Ashland High School, if we know on the final Thursday night practice of the season that we will win the conference championship the next day, we practice carrying me off the field so they don’t drop me on Friday night!.”

Every coach in the room was laughing hilariously. Teddy, chuckling at his punch line, had to wait for us to quiet down before he could continue. 

That simple statement has stuck with me ever since. I can’t tell you specifically anything else he talked about that morning. 

Teddy was right. When it comes to the  Poynette Softball program we try valiantly to never try anything in a bib game that we have not thoroughly practiced. There have been many instances over the years when an assistant coach comes up with a great suggestion during games and I say, “We haven’t practiced that so we better not try it. It’s a great thought so we will cover tomorrow at practice.”  Our teams like all teams fail regularly but seldom because the players were not prepared. I have been around sports and lots of coaches in my life. One thing I hear coaches say often that makes me cringe is - “Come on, we’ve talked about that.” Just talking about something without practicing it is a recipe for failure. 

If I had gone out to the pubs that winter night in 1975-76 like so many others, somewhere along the line, at some point in my coaching days, I may have learned Teddy’s lesson on my own --- but -- Teddy was right! 

“Never try anything in a game that you have not practiced!”

At that high-powered coaching clinic, chock full of big-name coaches, the least known coach at the clinic provided the most important teaching point of the weekend.

A Story Note: Of courseTeddy’s assistant coaches were at the clinic and the Sunday morning session I attended. I talked to those guys after the session. They confirmed that Teddy’s punch line was not just a joke- ender. They did indeed practice carrying him off the field on their shoulders. “Teddy leaves nothing to chance,” was what one of the assistants said. 

I do not know where Teddy is today, whether he is still living or not and if so where that might be. If he is still with us and you know him please tell him about this story and thank him for me.

Further note: The entire weekend was an adventure. It really was. However, the rest of the story is one that can be told at the “Buzz Table” at Chula Vista Resort next February.

That's it for tonight.

Keep the Faith and Keep it Rising!
And may soon, may all your days be fastpitch days.



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