FORSYTH COUNTY — Today is a day for dads. It’s a day to salute the men who aren’t afraid of a few stinky diapers, who support their children in their passions and roam the sidelines coaching them through life.
It’s also a day to honor grandfathers and other men who have stepped up to the plate to be a role model and support system for children who may not be their own.
These men could be teachers, mentors or even volunteers. And in the case of Mitch Smith, Kevin Scott and Scott Smith (no relation), they’re coaches.
Whether they’re there to coach a family member or someone else’s child, these three Forsyth County residents are making a difference for their teams and community.
If they don’t arrive with a nickname, it’s Mitch Smith’s job to bestow one onto the players of the Blue Spartans baseball team he coaches out of Sharon Springs Park.
He didn’t get to pick grandson Ryan Cobbett’s nickname though. That was an honor given to an assistant coach, who named him TY, short for Ty Cobb, similar to his last name.
But it was passion for the sport — not naming rights — that led Smith to coach his grandson nine years ago.
“[Cobbett] wanted to play baseball, probably because of my love of the game, and I just got active in helping him play,” he said. “I like working with the boys, I like teaching them the game, I like teaching them life lessons. It’s my way of giving back.”
Smith said he was close with his grandson, but being both grandpa and coach has strengthened that bond. However, this is his last year as coach, as Cobbett heads to high school in the fall.
Smith considered coaching his other three grandchildren. But with the amount of time he has committed to Cobbett’s travel team, he would rather watch all of them play.
It was a difficult decision. With the number of kids he’s helped coach over the years, it has become “like your second family.”
“You spend a lot of time with their families,” he said. “… We travelled all over, so you become really close when you have all these people on your team for so many years.”
He has worked to instill values in his players outside of baseball, but many of life’s lessons can be learned from the sport, according to Smith.
“Baseball is a lot like life. You’ve got to learn to deal with the successes in a good way and you have to be able to deal with failure in the same way,” he said. “... Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you’ve got to get back up, kick off the dirt and keep going.”
Kevin Scott took one year off between playing baseball and coaching it. That was 18 years ago when he became the coach of his then 4-year-old son’s team. And as soon as Dakota was too old to play, his youngest child, Phoenix, was ready to go.
Now in his 16thyear as a coach of the Bulldogs out of Central Park, he’s ready to see Phoenix, 8, all the way through.
“I just think it’s really important,” Scott said. “It occupies time in a healthy environment. It keeps me involved with the children and it keeps my family close.
“It’s about community. It’s friendship. The best friends I’ve ever made have been through sporting events ... and just the sense of family, because it’s a 100 percent team event.”
He did try to coach his daughters, Savannah, 17, and Adrianna, 16, but the results weren’t quite the same. “I made them play one year and they told me, ‘No thank you, Daddy,’” he said.
Scott’s been coaching his sons in the Central Park league since it opened in 2001, during which time he has continued to be surrounded by “nice, intelligent, loving fathers.”
“Parents play an integral part of this,” he said. “Baseball is just a wonderful way to make sure that affection and that relationship is developed and blossomed. So it’s something we all pass onto each other.”
But for those that have been coaching as long as Scott, they also leave behind a legacy.“When you walk in public and you run into 22-year-old kids that still refer to you as ‘Coach’ because they played for you when they were 5, it’s fascinating,” he said.
The sport of baseball, he said, teaches players more than throwing and catching. It’s also about life skills such as determination, goal setting and leadership.
“The greatest thing that was told to me about baseball is if you’re a .300 hitter, you’re a hall of famer because baseball is a game of failure,” he said. “It teaches you failure and how to succeed, how to work hard and depend on other people.”
This is only Scott Smith’s first year coaching basketball in Forsyth County, but he’s already been named an all-star.
He had quite a resume, however, coming into it. Having coached his two adult sons as they grew up, Smith brought a wealth of experience to the position.
After traveling to watch his sons play at the college level, Smith missed being involved.
“I said you know what, I’m going to go back and coach,” he said of his role at Fowler Park. “I just enjoyed it. It’s good for the kids, it’s better than staying home playing [video games], and they get to learn sportsmanship, discipline, teamwork.”
Smith’s team competed at this year’s state tournament in Savannah. While they didn’t win, Smith said his players performed well.
“We enjoy it. We try to work hard and learn something, but I think we have fun,” he said. “The kids all love coming to practice. I’ve had very few kids even miss a practice.”
He also credits the players’ parents with the team’s success.
“We seem to have great dads and great families,” he said. “I’ve coached many teams where I was the dad — taking them to practice, picking them up, taking them home. But the parents on the team this year were really tremendous.”
To Smith, who has played sports all of his life, serving as a coach and role model offered a different way to enjoy them. It’s also important for kids to have adults to turn to.
“I think it’s very important in a society —where we sometimes don’t have role models anymore, some of the sports figures that we have are in trouble morally — for me and for all the coaches to be a father figure and a role model for the kids, if need be,” he said.