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If You Ever Considered Giving Up on Teenagers ...

Youth baseball manager and league official Brian Moylan writes about a positive experience he's had with two teens who offered volunteer help.

By Brian Moylan

Novato Little League North started its Fall Ball season a few weeks ago along with several other leagues from around Marin County. This season began with a request I had not encountered in the past.

Our league president came to me with a request from two teenagers, both seniors at San Marin High School, to help coach a team as volunteer work.  As commissioner of Fall Ball and manager of one of our teams, I decided to take them up on their offer. 

I contacted Josh Wax and Ian Levy before we began practices.  After “interviewing” both on the phone about their motives and goals, I was happy to accept their help.  Both boys had playing experience, both came with good references and Ian will again play on San Marin’s baseball team in the spring.  I notified all of the players’ parents of the challenge I had accepted to see if there were any reservations, and I was happy that there were none. 

Despite the glowing references that I checked around town, I still held some reservations.  After all, I was going to place my 12 players, ages 9 through 12, in the path of teenagers. Yikes! What was I thinking? What was I getting into?  I am, after all, the responsible adult on the field.  I’ve seen many teens around town acting in less than what I would consider to be exemplary behavior; certainly not what I would want around my preteen players. 

From Day One, Practice One, when I hold a team meeting to discuss player and parental expectations, the two high schoolers provided hope to anyone who has given up on teenagers. Ian and Josh sometimes act like the very boys they are coaching on the field.  Sometimes they act like the adults that I need when corralling the boys during practices.  But, all of the time, they act in the utmost model behavior I would expect from anyone around children that age.  Nothing off-color, nothing inappropriate and certainly nothing I would have to speak to them about during or after a practice.  They always show up on time and stay until the very end of every practice.  That, in itself, is a statement because our practices are early Saturday and Sunday mornings. 

Recently we played our first game and the Cardinals did very well, playing their hearts out and acting like kids their age should act.  Josh and Ian were as much a part of the team as I or any of the players themselves.  They coached bases,  kept the boys motivated throughout the game and most of all, upheld all of the safety rules we have for the players.

If this behavior weren’t enough to help some of us realign our thinking about today’s youth, I will throw in the endorsements from every single player on the team, particularly my own son, who loves them both and looks up to them as if they were his big brothers.  Perhaps NLLN has set a new precedent about involving ourselves and our younger children with today’s teenagers.  I sure hope so. 

My only hope for these two outstanding young men is that they have learned as much from me as I have from them.

Kenny B October 23, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Too bad Fall Ball doesn't give other kids a chance.I thought the idea for Fall Ball was for kids who needed to hone their skills and to get an opportunity to get some time to do that. All it is, in the North particularly, is for players who already excel to get more playing time. I guess if you are not involved as a parent, or your kid isn't that good, you better forget Novato North Fall Ball.
Tina McMillan October 27, 2011 at 06:05 PM
I think it's wonderful that these young men were given a chance to hold positions of leadership. The team work in baseball is an incredibly opportunity to learn civic responsibility. We need to give teenagers more opportunities like these. I don't agree that it should be mandated as part of a graduation requirement but would suggest it be offered as an elective. Mandates don't build character. Independent choices build character. Sports, music, art, technology and outdoor activities are some of the exceptional choices young people can make here in Novato. Let's do more to put together older students with younger students, modeling behavior we would all hope to learn from. Congratulations Josh and Ian and thank you for your efforts.
Brian Moylan January 05, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Kenny B, I wish you would contact me about your comment. I am the Commissioner of Fall Ball for Novato North. Since I took this position over, I have tried my hardest to get coaches who give ALL kids equal chances. In fact, I have a mandate that they let all kids at least attempt to play any position requested-even Pitcher & Catcher. I feel badly that your son experienced anything different. Being a League volunteer should never be a requirement for a child learning or having fun. PERIOD! I can easily be found on the Novato North website, listed under Board Members. Feel free to call or email me at any time. Brian Moylan
Brian Moylan January 05, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Tina, I am sorry if my article made it sound like Josh & Ian were compelled to do volunteer work. They certainly are not. They were also never compelled to show up early and stay late for nearly every practice or game....and they certainly did. You are correct, Independent choices for teenagers, like any volunteer work, is what builds character. My sons are still very young and I am getting them involved in causes already, not for the hours, for the benefit to humanity. Thanks for your encouragement to Josh & Ian
Tina McMillan January 06, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Brian I apologize for the confusion. My criticism was of the requirements imposed by the Novato Unified School District regarding community service. I believe the district would do better to focus on education and let children and families develop experiences outside of school on their own. I wish there were more leadership opportunities for teenagers like the one you provided. Baseball is a great sport and with dedicated coaching it can help so many young people build confidence in themselves and learn patience, teamwork and resilience. Thank you again for the opportunity you gave the boys. It was a wonderful story to read.


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