Bobby Hawthorne discusses a different role from his past: Kickball coach

Bobby Hawthorne’s class, “The Bobby Hawthorne Experience,” teaches young journalists to break boundaries and go the extra mile to obtain a real story. However, for a portion of his life, Hawthorne said he pushed aside his own opportunity to acquire his PhD to participate in his daughter’s life.

“My daughter brought home this form from school and it said, ‘Sign up for kickball.’ I asked her if she wanted to do it and she said ‘yeah,’” said Hawthorne.

He went to the first parent meeting with originally a small volunteer job in his head, but when it was pointed out that when the team really needed was a new coach, Hawthorne was the one to (reluctantly) raise his hand.

“I thought ‘Well, h­ell, how hard could it be?’” he said.

A lot harder than he had expected, as it turned out.

“They had all these rules and everything!” Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne had the title of assistant coach for the first year along with another man with whom he quickly became friends, Carl Nickelson. The two assisted the head coach who led the team to an 0-10 season. For the last three games, the head coach had to leave, resulting in Nickelson and Hawthorne becoming co-coaches. The pair then coached their team to end their last three games with all wins.

“We said to ourselves, ‘Well we can just do this ourselves next year,’” said Hawthorne. “So the next year we got together, got ourselves another coach and ended up forming a really strong friendship.”

Hawthorne and Nickelson continued coaching together for six years, with both of their daughters on their team, only to stop once their girls outgrew the game. Hawthorne said he took a break for a while, only to be contacted by Nickelson a few years later.

“He had a younger daughter who came in, so he called me and said, ‘We’ve got two more years to go, and I’d really like to coach with you again,’ and I thought, ‘You know what? I think I’ll just do that again.’ So I coached for two more years,” said Hawthorne.

In a young league of kickball, Hawthorne said there weren’t many problems. Parents were never an issue, other coaches would occasionally get out of hand, but other than that, none.

“The biggest struggle was dealing with 9-year-old girls who wake up every 45 minutes on a different planet,” Hawthorne said. “You try to get them to focus in on a play and they’re over there waving to their friends all distracted!”

Hawthorne and Nickelson continued to coach their daughters through their years in the Junior and Senior divisions of the kickball league.

“By the time we were through, we really knew what we were doing,” said Hawthorne. “We had a great feel for the game.”

Throughout one season, Hawthorne faced a challenge with one of his players.

“Her name was Meghan, and she was terrified of the ball,” he said.

Hawthorne talked about how he would have to stand right in front of her and play catch while gradually backing up to make her feel comfortable catching the ball.

Bobby Hawthorne uses a plush Angry Bird toy to demonstrate his difficulty when attempting to get Meghan to catch the kickball. He said the toy represented the kickball. By Taylor Hale / Upstart Staff

“The best team memory though was when little Meghan, the kid on the team, the last kid chosen, the kid who didn’t get put on base all year long, had the big kick at the biggest game to beat our biggest rival,” said Hawthorne. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a big pure adrenaline thrill. We couldn’t believe it.”

Hawthorne also reminisced on his other favorite moments, mainly spending time with his daughter and watching her accomplish doing what she enjoyed was what made Hawthorne love kickball.

“I miss it. I would love to do it again,” he said. “The kids are all grown, but maybe if I have a granddaughter one day, I’m up for it.” By Taylor Hale / Upstart Staff


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