Coach Buddy Burkhead and MentorshipPosted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
This is not a site where we will preach personal guidance, or share many personal stories, but we wanted to share an appropriate story, because Dan and I lost an extremely memorable baseball coach a week ago. You can read about him here if you are interested.
Buddy Burkhead was one of a kind, he taught me many things about coaching and volunteering, how to find grit, how to play hard, and how to demand of others to play hard. He taught many of us how to slide headfirst at too young of an age, how to find passion on the field, and even taught me how to stitch a glove. I’d need two hands to count the number of times he disappeared overnight with one of my gloves for it to come back oiled and re-stitched. He was an artist at it: coach, mentor, glove resurrector.
In typical fashion, the last time I saw him, I was coaching a team in Washington D.C. a few years ago, and our starting catcher couldn’t come. The only catcher’s mitt available as a backup was mine, and it was too big and too new for our players to use. They were dropping every pitch. Out pops Buddy out of nowhere, with a catcher’s mitt. “Keep it, I don’t need it” he said, and off he went. It was oiled, recently re-stitched, and perfect for our players. I didn’t ask for it, he was there, and as usual always ready to give. Every time I saw him, same guy, same stories.
It got me thinking about coaching and my personal goals as a parent and mentor for these awesome little wonders filled with amazing potential. Buddy exemplified a coach who provided leadership and instilled confidence in the next generation. He was a man of few words, but of what little he said reverberated across the Washington D.C. area. As a result, I often think, what am I trying to achieve? What should we be trying to achieve as parents and coaches? Buddy makes me think of this famous quote by Joe Dimaggio…
“There might be a kid in the stands who has never seen me play, or would never see me play again. I burned to be the best for them, to leave them with a good memory of me” – Joe Dimaggio
Every player and every kid has a moment where things “click.” It may or may not be on the baseball field, but it might be. It may be an internalized moment for them, or something that we say or do. If it is something we say or do, it’s our responsibility as parents, coaches, and as mentors to be there, to show up for that moment, by encouraging players, being honest, and providing guidance to the best of our abilities, every day. I think about many of the moments where my life “clicked” and Buddy had an essential moment. I think about it all of the time and how we need to be consciously aware that the things we say can have positive and negative effects on these incredibly impressionable kids’ lives. Instead of shying away from it, we should value that exceptional opportunity, and take it on as a positive challenge.
Buddy was there for me when things “clicked,” and I know I am a better man because he was always there and always on his “A-game”, ready for my moment, and for thousands of other youth baseball players’ moments in Washington D.C. I hope to continue that legacy.