Arizona District Three Little League: District Three News: "In coaching youth, it's about creating better people." - Curt Schilling

"In coaching youth, it's about creating better people." - Curt Schilling

This is an article written by Curt Schilling that appeared in the 4/18/11 issue of USA Today.  Curt Schilling played Little League in Paradise Valley East Little League (now Shadow Mountain LL) and at Shadow Mountain High School.  I urge EVERY parent, manager and coach to read this article.   

By Curt Schilling

In hundreds of cities, thousands of parks and millions of minds, the biggest day of the year will be soon upon us. Little Leagues are readying for opening day, and aspiring Major Leaguers are again seeking that elusive championship season.

I want to offer a message to an incredibly generous group of folks: The coaches and volunteers. First off, coaches give hundreds of thousands of hours of their time to help raise our children, and for that, all parents owe a hearty thank you. Second, coaches should remember that everything they do — every pitch, inning, game and week of the season — is about the kids.

My son's story

I share this message now because my son is preparing for his new season, too. Grant is a marvelous child, but he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, which is on the autistic spectrum. This disorder has led him to test the patience of every coach on every baseball team he's ever been on.

There are kids like Grant in Little Leagues across the country. Since baseball is rooted in numbers — ERAs, RBI, batting averages — here is the most relevant statistic for coaches and parents to ponder: The chances you have a child who will become a Major League Baseball player are one in 11,700. According to Autism Speaks, the chances you have a child who is on the autism spectrum are one in 110.

You read that right. For every child you may run into that is talented enough and lucky enough to get through the first 18 or so years of life healthy and get drafted by a Major League team, you will run into scores more who have some form of autism. To parents of children with Asperger's, this is no small thing. Our kids are every bit as special as yours, just different. Different in ways society isn't comfortable with, and that is both maddening and disappointing as hell.

Baseball is the ultimate sport to teach lessons. The problem lies with the coaches and parents who view winning and championships as the only measures of success. That perspective is one of the worst ways to coach a child or raise an athlete.

My wife, Shonda, and I have made our four kids understand the difference between failing and losing. Losing is a part of every day life. You will get beat and you will be bested, but those are life's true gifts when you take them as lessons and learn from them. I truly believe the only way you can honestly fail in life is to quit. If you never quit, you can never fail. It really is that simple.

All about winning?

In Little League, high school and junior college, the game was the single most important thing in my life. I hated losing. Hell, the only time I ever cried over the outcome of a game was Little League — it was that big of a deal. That was how I was wired, not how I was coached or parented.

I was raised by a great man, but my father never was a head coach in Little League for me because he wanted me to have mentors outside the home, to learn from other men. These men were good coaches sure, but more important, they were and still are fantastic role models.

Ultimately, if coaches focus on making kids better people, I don't care what the record says at the end of the season, they've coached a winner, and in the process they've almost certainly changed some lives.

Curt Schilling is a retired All-Star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. His wife, Shonda, is author of the new book about their son, The Best Kind of Different.