Lack of quality coaches hits Janesville Youth Baseball
“Every day we talk about it,” said Dave Ellis, president of Janesville Youth Baseball.
Pressed back into the dugout to fill one of two vacant coaching spots in the Babe Ruth League,
Ellis is happy to help in a pinch, but the squeeze for quality volunteer coaches is getting tighter.
“I was kind of forced into it,” Ellis said. “There are not enough volunteers.’’
The shortage of volunteers is frustrating because player participation has risen.
“We had more kids come out this year,” Ellis said. “Our Babe Ruth levels are up and our overall numbers are up as far as kids go.’’
Board members Dave Davis and Phil Schram have poured 24 and 20 years, respectively, into coaching Janesville Youth Baseball teams. Both agree the coaching shortage is frustrating.
“It’s a nightmare,” Davis said. “Trying to get quality coaches is coming down to the last couple weeks before the season starts.’’
Davis said it wasn’t always that way.
“When I first started, we had a group of guys that returned every year,” Davis said. “We didn’t have any trouble if one guy dropped off.”
The coaches built friendships.
“Years ago, it would be the same guys year in and year out,” Schram said. “It was a social club, and it was fun to coach.’’
Schram said parents of young players are not as inclined to follow their boy or girl through the league’s progression.
“They coach a kid in the 9-10 and maybe move up to 11-12 and may or may not do Babe Ruth,”
Schram said. “It’s quite a time commitment.’’
Schram said baseball is in competition with more sports.
“It’s not the same interest like years ago, and the kids are out for all kinds of sports,” he said.
Not only is it hard to keep good coaches, it is a chore finding them.
“It’s a problem,” Davis said. “You want people with baseball knowledge, and it’s hard to come by.’’
A group of young, baseball-savvy volunteers has stepped up, including 26-year-old Josh Shere, who is coaching the Rays in Babe Ruth this season.
Shere played baseball for Janesville Craig High School, UW-Whitewater and UW-Oshkosh, plus two semi-professional teams, the defunct Janesville Aces and currently Milton’s Junction Pub Raptors.
“Dave Ellis called me a couple hours before the draft and asked me if I wanted to coach, and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ’’
Shere is happy he answered Ellis’ call.
“It’s really turned out to be kind of a blessing,” Shere said of his first year of coaching. “It’s pretty nice. It’s good to get back out here and give back to Janesville baseball for what it did for me growing up.’’
Shere is aware of the coaching shortage.
“They have some younger coaches, but I guess it’s tough finding people that want to coach,” Shere said. “It’s a lot of time.
“It’s more time than I thought it would be,” he added. “But it’s what you make out of it.’’
Shere didn’t want a parent in the dugout so he tabbed several of his friends, Jordan Burdick and Paul DiNicola, to help.
“This is my first year coaching, and I wanted to do it on my own,” Shere said. “I wanted to do it myself and see how I did it and learn from my own mistakes instead of having a dad looking over my shoulder telling me this or that.”
Shere plays to win, and admits he is “way too competitive for some people,” but he has adjusted to the rules and keeps in close touch with parents.
“There is a rule in (Babe Ruth) this year to get everybody to bat. It’s new to me, but we’ve done it every game,” Shere said. “When it comes to parents, I’m constantly e-mailing all the parents on practices, games and cancellations.”
Shere’s Rays lost their first two games, but won their next three. It’s been a good run so far.
“We’re having a great time,” Shere said. “It’s great with these kids.’’
Like the newcomer Shere, the veteran Schram has found satisfaction coaching young baseball players, although he admits, “I’m getting a little burned out.’’
“To see a kid get his first hit or a kid make a catch and see the smile on his face as he comes off the field is priceless,’’ Schram said.
Janesville Youth Baseball has rewards for those willing to step up and work for them.