Letter to My Coach:
For Every Woman and Girl Who Ever Wanted to Play Baseball
Dear Mr. Z.,
I’m sure you don’t remember me. I have never forgotten you. You may not realize how much you impacted the lives of the young women you coached.
You were my last softball coach until adulthood. I went out for the JV team in the 80’s. I missed one practice to go to an exhibition baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Iowa Cubs. This was very early in the season. The next practice you rode me relentlessly. Every time I caught the ball you yelled, “This is softball not baseball! You’re catching it like it’s a baseball!” When I was hitting you yelled, “Hit it like a softball not a baseball!” It was incessant. I thought it would blow over after a few days. Weeks went by and you did not let up.
You got angrier. When yelling at me spit flew out of your mouth and your face turned crimson. It was directed at me. The other girls would look at me nervously and kept their distance. I’m sure they feared catching your wrath. I was shocked. I was only 14. I didn’t understand why you were so mad.
Eventually you didn’t even let me take batting practice. You told me to run the pitching machine. I was trying to be a team player so I did what you told me to do even though it made my gut ache. Then you would yell at me to run in the outfield while others took infield practice. It was clear I was being singled out for punishment. I didn’t understand why I was being singled out.
After several weeks of this mistreatment, it was clear I was not going to get a chance to play. I wasn’t even getting a chance to practice. I wasn’t part of the team because I wasn’t treated like part of the team. I finally got angry enough to quit. I used to regret quitting and wondered if things might have improved if I had stuck it out. I don’t regret it now.
You were right. I should have been playing baseball. Baseball is what I truly wanted to play with all my heart and soul. Softball is not the equivalent of baseball.
I’m writing you this letter because even though you were right that my heart was with baseball not softball, you didn’t have a right to prevent me from playing. Being a coach is a responsibility and honor. Your treatment of me was outrageous. Since you recognized a penchant for baseball in me why didn’t you give me and girls like me a chance to play baseball? If I was so unsuited for softball, you should have steered me towards baseball. Of course, you would never do it. It was unthinkable. And in this lies the root of your anger.
We were not just denied a chance to play baseball. Even though we had a right to play baseball, we were never even informed of this right. We were steered into softball as if it was the only option. It’s still happening today.
However, I know it’s wrong. It feels good to say it. Until fairly recently I had no idea girls have a right to play baseball. In the many times I expressed an interest in playing baseball, not one person told me it was okay. The answer was always a resounding, inflexible, “No”. You were in a key position to change things. Instead you wholeheartedly projected this injustice.
I’m letting you know it is not okay for anyone to tell a girl who wants to play baseball, “You have to play softball instead.” We have a legal right to play baseball. It’s also the right thing to do to help build a girl’s confidence and life skills.
Your fierce anger is still vivid in my mind. I suspect I was a target for your own frustrations. Since baseball was invented countless people have been determined to prevent women from playing baseball. I can only guess your motivations. The impact of your actions are undeniable.
Your anger towards me was misdirected. It wasn’t just about me. You knew I was more interested in baseball than softball. Many people still have a misperception softball is for girls and baseball for boys. Anger is a negative emotion. The fact you were so deeply angered, it lasted so long, and motivated you to punish me is evidence whatever motivated you was negative. If you had good reasons for feeling the way you did, you would not have felt a need to punish me, exclude me, and single me out. If you had good reasons, you would have been able to talk to me and explain. You didn’t.
Today, you would not get away with this behavior. Now I know my rights, and I stand up for my rights and the rights of others. If you were coaching MY daughter, I would not let you get away with this misbehavior. I would stand up for my daughter’s rights. I would go to every practice and video record your rants. I would then go to your employer and the media. I would never let you treat a daughter of mine the way you treated me.
I will support any girl who wants to play baseball. I will stand up for any girl who is denied an opportunity to play the life enriching sport of her choice.
You unintentionally taught me the importance of standing up for a girl’s right to play baseball and follow her dreams. I’m taking it to a broader audience than a small Iowa town. I’m working with other women and girls who are dedicated to promoting girls’ baseball all over the world. Our impact already has a greater audience than you had in your entire coaching career.
This letter is really for all the girls who have been told they can’t play baseball, coach, umpire, manage, or be a baseball journalist. This letter is written to all the coaches who have ever told us baseball was for boys not girls. It’s for all the girls who have ever been denied their right to play the game they love.
We’re on a roll. You can’t stop us now.