Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kevin Daize - Father, Coach, Man-Extraordinaire!

SMSA 2013 Squirt Girls Selects - Provincial Champions

I have been very fortunate to get to know Kevin Daize over the last number. He and his daughter, Lauren, would come out to the SMSA's pitching clinic each and every night as well as have their winterball practice right before hand. He is clearly a dedicated father and coach. I contacted him not so long ago to get his thoughts and perspectives on being coach, as he is someone all coaches could learn a thing or two from. He had the following to say:

In the 7th and 8th grades I belonged to a school that had a phenomenal music program.  The Vice Principal Mr. Leith was a stern man with a dry sense of humour in his late 40's at the time, who was also a gifted musician.  He conducted the school band, which year over year would win awards, and at one point had even released a record (that's right...from a grade 8 band!).
Before starting the 7th grade, most of the kids in the band had never before touched a wood wind or brass instrument.  They had been introduced to their instruments as part of the standard music program, then been selected to play in the band if they demonstrated a level of proficiency.
Mr. Leith amazed me.  He could play every instrument;  Trumpets, trombones, French horns, clarinets, flutes...I don't remember ever seeing him not able to play an instrument.  The benefit of course, was that Mr. Leith could demonstrate how a particular piece was supposed to sound when one of the band
members was having trouble.  They could see him, hear him, plus listen to his explanations.  In my mind, he always did an excellent job at ensuring the kids were able to understand what he was teaching.
The band was broken into sections...the bass, woodwinds, percussion, etc., and were all given instructions along with their sheet music to work on.  The groups were sent to their own sound proof rooms within a building that was separate from the rest of the school to work on their components.  This building was affectionately called "The Pit".
After  several days of practicing separately, and in some cases, bringing our instruments home to fine tune our pieces, Mr. Leith would bring the entire band together.  As a member, we knew we had a responsibility to the rest of the band to learn our individual music.  And we knew the rest of the band had a responsibility to us to know theirs.  Anyone not prepared would stand out like an angry tom cat when Mr. Leith called everyone to order before finally raising his conducting baton.
I don't expect anyone reading this to be so naive as to think that we played the scores in our set list perfectly the first time.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But would did happen, is that a group of thirty 13 and 14 yr. olds would play a recognizable piece of music together.  Sure it was a little ugly at first, but that was the diamond in the rough.  Mr. Leith was quick to stop and highlight problems in any particular part of the band as we practiced together.  Sometimes they'd be sent away to practice on their own again depending on the infraction.  His guidance was swift, direct, and specific.
The band perfected each piece of music as it prepared for upcoming concerts.  We found ourselves playing at events alongside concert bands formed with kids from high schools in their late teens, but anyone present and not able to see the young people behind our instruments would have sworn our prowess went well beyond our years.

This will be my fifth year coaching House League fastball for the Stittsville Minor Softball Association (SMSA), and I can't believe how much influence Mr. Leith has had on my approach to teaching kids the game, assigning accountability, and feeling the sense of accomplishment when everything finally comes together.  I can only strive to be the leader Mr. Leith was.
The ball diamond is our "Pit", and until you see and feel it all come together, you'll never know how rewarding it is to coach kids fastball.     
-Kevin Daize