By Ron Busch
These days we all seem to be busy with jobs, home life, children and parental responsibilities, etc. So it is refreshing to stop and take a few moments to reflect on what’s really important in our lives. What’s even more refreshing is finding people that have a desire to make a difference in the next generation. This is a “pay it forward” outlook that is often hard to find today. That outlook is alive and well in CYO youth sports. There are numerous people who give of their talents and often more important, give of their time as coaches for the CYO sports programs.
A couple of CYO softball coaches who are “coaching for all the right reasons” were discovered during research for a recent article. These are coaching types whose philosophies and efforts deserve some recognition.
Mindy Castle is softball coach for St. Rose/St. Louis who works for the County Prosecutor’s office doing criminal investigations. Her team recently suffered a heart-breaker in the CYO Championship, losing 3-0 to a talented St. Jude team. This year St. Rose/St. Louis had 11 girls anxious to play softball but were without a coach. Castle stepped forward to coach the team. Mindy had previously coached youth softball and high school basketball and was ready to step up and assist.
Castle likes to draw a line with her players between “having fun” and “goofing off.” Apparently they got the message, advancing to the title game. She has a coaching philosophy that “winning isn’t everything,” and likes to emphasize the fundamentals. Her father coached CYO basketball and Castle mentions her father as having a big influence on her decision to coach CYO softball. Her father has been a “role model” and a key to her coaching today. Castle also mentions Cleveland Inge (Bishop Dwenger girls’ basketball coach) as another person influential in establishing her philosophy.
When asked for a few “words of wisdom” for someone considering volunteering as a coach, Castle encourages a new coach to be knowledgeable about the sport and have fun. It’s important to have fun but not to try to be a friend, aunt or uncle to the student-athletes that one is coaching. She suggests that a new coach should exhibit patience and look for improvement over the course of the season. One of Mindy Castle’s competitors this season was Queen of Angels/Precious Blood.
Denny Jamison is softball coach for Queen of Angels/Precious Blood. Jamison has been coaching the team for the last three or four years and is a veteran of coaching CYO sports. Jamison works as a handyman/residential contractor/locksmith in addition to helping with the parish facilities at Queen of Angels. He’s been “paying it forward” for a number of years and readily admits an estimated 650-700 games of coaching over the years. This year, Jamison’s team was one that featured improvement and had several good offensive spurts this season.
He’s quick to point out a New Haven game in which it was tied 12-12 in the last inning, Queen of Angels/Precious Blood only losing in the very last inning, being outscored by 7 or 8 runs. Jamison stresses good base running and fundamentals as well. He cites a statistic that 90 percent of pass balls or wild pitches with a runner on third base will result in a run. Jamison is also quick to give credit to those around him. He initially got into coaching some 26 or 27 years ago when his daughter was 11 years old. His wife was slated to be the softball coach and a few days before the season started she drafted her husband as an assistant. Jamison assisted her in 8 of the 9 years that she coached.
Jamison’s coaching philosophy is borrowed from one of his coaching role models, Larry Westendorf, former coach of St. Francis. There’s a softball field at The University of Saint Francis dedicated to Larry Westendorf. Jamison shares Westendorf’s coaching philosophy of: first God, then family, followed by school, and finally sport. Keeping priorities in order, Westendorf would often excuse a player from practice if that player needed “study time.” Jamison’s philosophy also includes “enjoy the sport, have fun, keep it fun, go forward, be positive, be aggressive, don’t be afraid to get dirty,” and as a coach, “try not to mess it up for the kids.”
It’s hard to imagine Jamison or Castle “messing it up for the kids.” Quite the opposite is true. Both coaches seem to have it right. Be there for their student-athletes, not as a friend or aunt or uncle, but rather as a coach. Become someone interested in CYO youth and the future. Coach.
Mindy Castle and Denny Jamison… two who are coaching for all the right reasons.
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