Why I Enjoy Coaching and Umpiring Softball by Hon. Pamela L. Brooks
I am a judge with the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. My professional life revolves around kids in crisis, many of whom have made some very bad choices. As anyone who works in JDR Court knows, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, child dependency and family law cases can be emotionally draining. One way I counter the difficulty of the courtroom and to restore balance to my life is to volunteer my time as the umpire-in-chief and an assistant coach for Loudoun Girls Little League Softball, and as an umpire for Central Loudoun Little League.
Softball and baseball are great sports for teaching positive lessons to children. They learn to play as part of a team. They learn that there is a strategy to playing ball, and that sometimes it is necessary to make sacrifices for the good of the entire team. They learn good sportsmanship, including how to be gracious winners as well as good losers. Little League is a great organization to teach these principles. Mandatory minimum playing requirements for each player guarantee that every child plays, even if her skill level is not as great as those of her teammates. All of the coaches are required to complete the Positive Coaching Alliance course once per year. Coaches are taught how to bring out the best in each child, not just as ball players, but as young men and women. Winning is important, but is not everything. Abusive coaching is not tolerated. When the parents misbehave in the stands (which sadly happens sometimes), the players see the umpires and the coaches maintaining decorum and instructing the parents on being good sports. The kids learn that even grown-ups make mistakes, and how silly these adults look when they behave like children. Occasionally I see a child start the season, perhaps new to the sport, without a sense that she can play ball well and often just a little shy. I have been blessed to see many of these children over the years, and by the end of the season these girls have learned to hit, to field, and to be part of a team. More importantly, these children have developed self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. I believe the skills and lessons learned from participation in team sports will carry over to other aspects of these children’s lives and on into adulthood.
Each of us has an obligation to give something to our community — to make our community a better place. What better place to start than with our children. Teaching moments exist in many arenas, not just in school. While teaching ball skills and rules certainly happens on the ball fields I frequent during the spring, summer, and fall each year, the most important skills that are taught develop the character of these young people and thus improve our most precious community resource. I am fortunate to have these opportunities to work with children in a positive environment. It strengthens me when I go back into court and meet the many children and young adults who never got the chance to be part of a team and too infrequently see that adults care about them and the choices they make.
© 2009 Judge Pamela L. Brooks
The honorable Pamela L. Brooks is a judge in the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which hears cases involving juvenile offenses and family-related cases such as child abuse or neglect, spouse abuse, child support, custody disputes, and foster care.