Howard Nelson has dedicated himself to coach the children in Montgomery County, Maryland for the past twelve years. In 1996, he began coaching t-ball during both the spring and fall seasons. A few years later, this evolved into coach-pitch, then machine-pitch, and ultimately kid-pitch baseball. In between baseball seasons, Howard also coached winter basketball.
Coaching has always been a labor of love for Howard. He loves sports and as a father to three boys, has always enjoyed teaching kids how to play sports. What makes him unique is that he not only wanted to teach the kids how to play the game, but even more so, he emphasized the importance of sportsmanship. He insisted that the kids on his teams support one another, regardless of how they are doing as a team or as individuals. No one was ever made fun of or left out. No matter how good or bad the children were athletically, they were all given equal playing time on the field or basketball court. Even when they were getting trounced, Howard resisted putting in his best players and instead, played kids equally. Even when other teams played their best players throughout a game, he refused to do the same.
At the end of every baseball and basketball game, Howard would gather the children for a post-game talk. The team members and their parents would gather around him. In a low and calm voice, he would review the game highlights and lowlights. Regardless of whether they won or lost, Howard was always able to point out a few lesions that could be learned from the game. Before wrapping up, he would present two or three of the children on the team with “Sportsmanship Certificates.” These certificates were given to the children who, during that particular game, did something outstanding. In some cases, they made a winning play. In other cases, they may have assisted with a play. Howard rotated the certificates to ensure that by the end of the season everyone had been awarded at least one certificate. He always had a positive spin and reason why every child had contributed to the team and should be honored.
When each spring season draws to a close, the baseball team holds a dinner. During that time, Howard speaks about each of the children individually and recaps the highlights of their year. He does this after reviewing notes that he takes at each game throughout the year on how each child played. When he does this, not only is the child and his parents feeling pride, but the entire team sits and cheers for each player. This is the feeling of sportsmanship and team play that Howard has sought to inspire in these children when he started coaching them as five year olds.
Until you have coached a team, it is hard to understand the amount of work that goes into establishing a roster, setting up plays, rotating players and coaching a team through games, holding team practices and working with all the parents and/or guardians. Howard has excelled in all these areas and his dedication to sports and to teaching future generations how to play baseball and basketball competitively but fairly will be a part of his team forever.