Editor's note: This is the second in a series on youth coaches associated with the Stephenville Parks and Recreation Department. Today we catch up with Ed Dittfurth, a pastor and currently head coach of the 12U Lions Club Rockies baseball team.
Sitting proudly on a top shelf in the office of Cornerstone Church pastor Ed Dittfurth is a wooden set of four picture frames. In the left frame is Dittfurth at age 11, with his father who coached his youth baseball team at the time. The next frame features Dittfurth with his daughter, Ciara, then he and his son, Rett. The final frame shows him with his youngest boy, Asher.
In each frame, Dittfurth's children are 11 years old and wearing sports uniforms. The oldest, Ciara, is now 18 and a recent Stephenville High School graduate. Rett is 15 and Asher 11. Each photo, including the one of Ed and his father, are staged and cropped almost identically.
"I look back and I remember my dad being a pipe fitter and working long hours, but always making the sacrifices and taking the time to coach my teams when I was growing up because he saw the value in it," Dittfurth says. "I didn't realize it at the time, but I reflect now on it and realize how much it meant for me."
So Dittfurth, now 45, did the same, getting into youth coaching through SPARD, first as an assistant for a number of years, then as a head coach beginning in 2006. He's coached baseball and softball teams, and is currently guiding the 12U Lions Club Rockies. He says this season will be his last as a head coach.
What led you to get into youth coaching?
The negativity I saw associated with it. I saw coaches whose only goal was to win, and I saw some of them only pay attention to the more athletic kids on their teams and kind of kick a lot of the others to the curb. I wanted to change that, to teach the kids to have more goals besides winning and losing, and to help all the kids learn the fundamentals and develop a love for the game.
What goals do you set for your team?
I feel like if your only goal is to win, you're going to fail a good bit of the time. You just don't win every game every year. But if you set multiple goals, even when you lose the kids can leave feeling like they have achieved something and bettered themselves. Our team has four goals - have fun, learn fundamentals, get some hits because that's always fun and have respect for the game. By respect for the game, I mean wearing their hat right, tucking their shirt in, running on and off the field, just giving honor to the game and to the fact that you have a physical body capable of going out there and getting better every chance you get.
What is different about coaching boys and girls?
It's day and night. It's so funny because you have to talk to them differently. But, really, it's different with every kid. Some you can talk to real strong, others you pull off to the side and tell them, 'I know you want to do your best, so make this adjustment.' But I've seen boys and girls be equally competitive. I've had some girls who love to win and hate to lose just as much or more than some of the boys I've coached.
What are the biggest values you see associated with youth sports?
I think, when properly framed, competition gives kids emotional confidence to work at something and improve at it. Even if you don't win the game, you can improve in some phase. It teaches them they can learn to do things they've never done before, that when you put your mind on something and work at it you can improve, and you can achieve.