CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – May 2023
“What mattered to them is what we have stressed from the start of the season – to have fun, play as a team, learn, and look for opportunities to get better.”
By David Grossman
**Update: It happened – a championship in the Whitby Minor Baseball Association.
Hard work, a commitment to excel by students and strong coaching. Toss them all together and what results is an opportunity to be No. 1.
Team skipper Matt Peate is not one to take credit, but his team can.
The Mets beat the Royals 24-11 to win the regional title and cap a perfect playoff record. Four wins in four games to go along with an 11-4-1 season. In 2022, the team finished 3-16.
“A great victory for these young players who were focussed and learned a great deal,” said the winning coach. Matt Peate watched his team advance to the championship with a 6-2 win over the Reds.
“The key to their success was teamwork. All year, as their coach, I preached we win as a team, we lose as a team, and we have fun as a team. The support and encouragement they provided each other was amazing.”
Charlie McIntosh knocked in what turned out to be the winning run as his single paved the way for Declan Peate to reach home plate. Ben Pescador will remember this game the rest of his life with a stellar performance from the mound and notching the win.
After the game, Sawyer Pigeu was awarded the title of Most Valuable Player for the season.
“Just an all-around great player,” praised the coach. “He has nerves of steel on the mound during pressure situations, great at bats and willing to help the team in any way he could by encouraging and leading the way.” **
Memories rarely fade, especially some of those special moments that are truly treasured.
Like the card Matt Peate received, and cherishes, from a young player called Maddox that reads “Thank you for being a great coach!”
As a sports coach, Peate likes to share flashbacks of meaningful times that embellished the feeling of optimism and accomplishment.
With a captivating smile, during a conversation over coffee, Peate shared his memories of a team he coached in the Whitby Minor Baseball Association.
In fact, he remembers it very well.
Made up of eight-and-nine-year-old players, his team had just been trounced, 16-1. Then came the post-game handshake, and those same players – crushed on the ball diamond – were then seen jumping up and down in an outburst of raucous triumph.
It wasn’t choreographed, but it was a scene he will never forget. Neither did the opposing coaches and the players on the victorious squad, who couldn’t decipher the hysteria displayed after a tumultuous loss.
Always optimistic, showing poise and confident, Peate’s explanation was unequivocally forthright.
“What mattered to them is what we have stressed from the start of the season – to have fun, play as a team, learn, and look for opportunities to get better,” said Peate. “At their age level, it’s not always about winning games, trophies and championships.”
While some coaches may have a difference of opinion, in Peate’s universe there is no disappointment or frustration. Yes, deflating times, but that goes for much more than a minor league baseball game.
John Wooden, a former college coach, once said “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
When it came to thinking that good things would happen with his players, Peate was bang on.
“The focus is on the kids and what we do to build confidence and enjoyment,” he said. “Sure, every kid wants to be like the pros, dream of making it to that level – and I was the same. There are rules that players understand, and I always enforce two, by e-mail and face-to-face: have fun and make sure you always bring the equipment, so you don’t get hurt.”
In addition to his own evaluation, Peate has received positive reaction from parents wanting him to coach their sons the following season.
“Lots of support,” said Peate, whose team had a tough 2022 season finishing with a 3-16 season record. “I made a commitment to these players that win or lose, they always need to have a smile on their face at the end of the game.”
When there is a need to reinforce rules, Peate does just that – and in an eloquent and sincere way. He’s also a coach known for inspiring hard work and, also, for taking time away from sport to deal with issues.
“I always find time to talk with kids who may have personal or family concerns or challenges,” he said. “Educating players, especially when it comes to behaviour, is very important.
“I once had a player, and he was very competitive, who struck out and threw his bat. I had a private conversation with him on the bench about self-control. I told him that we all have bad days, and it’s okay, but I made it quite clear that we would not tolerate it. Things improved.”
Peate’s introduction to organized baseball came as a nine-year-old, in the former Bloor Baseball League. His first coach emphasized the importance of every player on the team. Peate doesn’t hide that he has followed the same pattern.
“Back then, there was no best, or worst player – we played, learned and developed as a team,” he said. “My coach was one inspirational individual for me. I felt that I was a good player, but it was his encouragement and motivation that made me a better player.”
Raised by a single parent, family financial situations were a challenge.
Disappointment would come learning that aspirations of making the major leagues just would not come about. At age 14, his baseball dreams were shattered when, despite asking to be pulled because of shoulder pain, his coach left him in for another inning. That proved to be costly as he was unable to lift his arm, with medical staff later determining he had a rotator cuff injury.
Peate also didn’t have the funds to pursue a college or university education. As an 18-year-old, it was right to the work force, where he found employment in a restaurant as a cook and eventually as a supervisor. What became abundantly clear was his devotion to the job and superb customer service skills.
Experience, hard work, and a commitment to excel were priorities. Benefitting from an engaging and upbeat personality, and always sorting out his thoughts with a bright outlook, Peate doesn’t skip over opportunities. These days, he’s a Director of Operations for nine Tim Horton’s restaurants in York Region, where coaching staff takes on a whole new meaning.
What perked his interest in coaching came one spring day while taking his four-year old son to a baseball tryout. There was a need for community volunteers and coaches.
“I wanted to help and knew my coaching skills were work related,” he said. “I was leading adults, not children, in a work environment. For house league baseball, I didn’t have coaching certification but knew screening, enforcing discipline, rules and common sense would be very important.”
So, what’s it like as a sports coach?
“I do it because I love it,” said Peate, who also coaches house league hockey games. “The focus is always on the players in helping them, providing opportunities to learn, to work with others, and develop relationships.”
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Peate – who merge excellence in teaching with the strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“The focus is on the kids and what we do to build confidence and enjoyment.“
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
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