Dale Murphy admits he hasn’t always been the perfect parent or, for that matter, the most congenial coach.
But the two-time former National League MVP and the proud father of eight – including Weber State defensive lineman McKay Murphy – has some positively inspiring ideas about the importance of positivity, not just in the sports world but in the real world.
Chatting for a few minutes Tuesday morning, after giving a speech at the Eccles Center as part of the Bank of Utah’s Fall Author series, Murphy smiles graciously and for a minute it’s difficult to imagine the man began his career as a catcher. One, because he’s a long 6-foot-4 and not at all squatty, and two, because he’s so darn happy.
Perhaps that’s why he eventually got out from behind the plate and moved to friendlier spots like first base and the outfield.
But that’s the thing about Murphy. He really is a nice man and before he begins to share his views on the role positivity can play for parents, coaches and, really, anyone, he is quick to point out that he’s not perfect. Of course he didn’t exactly sell that point during Tuesday’s Q-and-A session when someone asked him if he was ever ejected from a baseball game.
He thought about it very briefly and, almost sheepishly said, “No, I never did.”
Well, OK, so he never freaked out on an umpire, never kicked up dirt and threw a hissy fit at home plate.
Still, there have been some mistakes along the way.
“There’s pros and cons to sports,” he said. “I like it. I think if we handle it right as parents and coaches it’s a good experience. I wasn’t always the perfect coach or the perfect parent (but) I like to talk to parents of young athletes, not because I was so good at being a parent and a coach but because it’s challenging.”
That seems to be a key point for the 18-year big league veteran who recorded 398 home runs and more than 1,260 RBIs.
He recognizes that being a coach, a parent or simply a member of the human race, comes with lots of challenges. Now 58 and speaking with the benefit of a lot of experience, he said he understands how frustrations can mount.
For coaches, sometimes it’s simply getting players to buy into your message or to elevate their game.
For parents, it’s finding the line between encouraging and pushing too hard.
For all of us, it’s fighting through the natural tendency to be bitter or selfish or any other negative emotion.
Speaking specifically to coaching (but it certainly applies to the other areas) Murphy said: “It’s important to be all positive. All positive.”
Sports, he acknowledged, do not always provide positive experiences, especially for young athletes just starting out. And, really, whether its the earliest levels or high-end competitive leagues, many people have had negative experiences.
“Kids don’t have good experiences and that’s not a good thing,” he said.
Murphy mentioned a study he’d recently seen that indicated some children who associate bad experiences with sports withdraw not just from that sport, but from exercise altogether.
That explains, at least on some level, rising levels of inactivity and obesity among children.
“(Sports can) be helpful and prepare people and teach things,” Murphy said. “But we have to have parents and mentors and coaches that understand that it’s not about them. It’s about the kids.”
Murphy recounted times during his athletic career when he received positive motivation from coaches and managers and said they made him feel good about himself and that made him want to achieve more success.
Among many other interesting stories, important advice and helpful ideas, those are just two key takeaways from Tuesday’s conversation: Be positive and remember, it’s not about you.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo