Q&A with JJ Garza
In the world of youth sports, it seems a little countercultural to chase down your players.
If the player wants to be there, then it’s his or her responsibility to get to practice, arrive to games on time, to be prepared and engaged.
Meet JJ Garza, one of our veteran RBI Austin coaches, who has pursued his players even when it’s been hard. See how JJ and his family have engaged the families of their T-Ball Rockies team, embodied the mission + culture of RBI Austin, and how it’s impacted everyone involved.
Q: Is there one player or family in particular that comes to your mind who you’ve specifically and intentionally had to pursue and who you’ve seen feel more a part of RBI/your team because of this? Can you tell us about your relationship?
We first met Sergio Melendez in the summer of 2016. I say “we” because my wife and kids were an integral part in building a relationship with Sergio and his family.
Sergio was a very shy four year old. I noticed him coming out of his shell with a little attention and praise during practice. I came to find out he was the only boy in a family full of girls. RBI was his first experience in a team environment. We asked our daughter Emma to show him the ropes a little. Soon both of my kids were engaging Sergio more in conversation. Throughout the season you could see his confidence grow along with his smile. We witnessed his effort and engagement in the game increase.
My wife, Danette, was wonderful in engaging Nikki, Sergio’s mother. The following season, Nikki registered her daughter, Sophia, with RBI and joined our team. Sophia was a tiny little thing experiencing the same engagement-issues as her big brother. It was wonderful to see how Sophia was quickly accepted and brought into the fold.
Nikki and her kids have attended my kid’s birthday parties and other events with my family. My kids get excited when they see Sergio, their friend.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve faced in coaching with RBI?
I had no coaching experience when I started with RBI. I signed up to be assistant coach; to observe and learn. To this day, I don’t know how I ended up with my own team. Nonetheless, I am happy it worked out the way it did. It forced me to learn and grow, not only with baseball, but as a communicator, specifically with young kids.
Q: How has your mentality or approach had to change or adjust since coaching with RBI?
I was “drills” driven in the beginning. I thought that repetition was the most important thing in coaching. But, I quickly learned that 4-6 yr old’s attention span is extremely short. So, I had to incorporate some FUN drills and not call them “drills”. Bottom line, I had to learn to make practice and games fun for the kids. I needed to be reminded that it is just a “game.”
Q: Has it been worth it? Why?
I’m going on my 4th year coaching now. Every year, it seems I prepare sooner and sooner to the start of the new league year. I’m reading, watching videos, attended group discussion on how to positively use baseball as a venue to impact young lives.
It has been worth it.
I’ve received so much back, more than I put in I think. I’ve grown so much in coaching but most of all as a father to my own kids. The skills I’ve learned with RBI are not only applicable in coaching baseball, but have been beneficial skills as a father as well.
It’s been a fun ride.
We’d love to hear your RBI story! How did you get involved with us? Why have you been involved? Stories of hope and encouragement? Stories of seeing the Lord change hearts? Stories about how your time with RBI has shaped or changed you?
The Lord has given us all a story, and we want to hear how He’s used RBI — no matter how small of a part — in yours!