Photo Credit: Baylor University Photography
In early December of 2016, Baylor University announced the hiring of Matt Rhule, former head coach at Temple University, as the 27th head coach of the Bears program. However for the former Little League® graduate, there is a piece of his life that extends well past the sidelines of McLane Stadium.
Rhule, who grew up playing Little League baseball in New York City with his father as the coach, has had the opportunity to share that same experience with his son, Bryant, after coaching his Little League team in Philadelphia this past year. His four-year-old daughter, Vivienne, is also enjoying the Little League experience after participating in her first year of Tee Ball last season.
For Rhule, having the opportunity to coach his son, along with the other members of the Taney Youth Baseball Association, has been an incredible experience that has provided him a chance to bond with his son while also teaching kids important skills and life lessons through the game of baseball.
Since taking over at Baylor, Rhule and his family has recently moved out to Waco, Texas, which also serves as the home for the Little League Southwestern Region Headquarters, and plans to continue sharing Little League moments with his children.
Little League recently spoke with Rhule about what being involved with Little League has meant for him, both as a coach and a father.
Little League: Growing up, what did Little League mean to you?
Matt Rhule: Number one, the coaching was tremendous. I was lucky to be coached by my father as well as my other coaches. I think any time you are around a great coach, they stretch you to prove your skills and they teach you to learn how to grow. You learn how to overcome failure and you learn how to learn from your mistakes. I loved being a part of a team.
LL: What did it mean to you to be able to coach your son?
MR: I thought it was a wonderful experience. Any time you have a chance to instruct your son and have a relationship that’s different than just father and son, but also to be his coach. And really to coach all the kids. I thought it was wonderful to be able to be their coach at such an instructional age where they’re beginning to learn about competition, but more importantly you’re there to instruct them on skills and sportsmanship. I think it’s really important to learn how to handle success and how to handle failures. Those are the things that were really fun for me to do with my own son and with the other kids.
LL: Have the things you learned coaching Little League transferred over to coaching college football?
MR: Absolutely. Anytime I see someone take the time to work with kids and coach my kids, I’m reminded about the importance of patience. You’re reminded about the importance of the step-by-step process and scaffolding your teaching so that you’re teaching them the basics and continuing to build off solid fundamentals. Coaching Little League is coaching in its purest form. That’s what all of us need to do as college coaches.
LL: In the past you’ve talked about the importance of not trying to coach your kids if you aren’t the coach of the team. Can you talk about why that is important to you?
MR: The biggest thing we can do as parents is to teach our kids how to listen to their coach and learn from the person that is designated to instruct them. When I’m the coach, I want the kids to listen to me and not the parents. When I’m not the coach, I go out and sit in right field and leave the coaches alone. The most important thing we can teach our kids is how to be coachable. Teach them how to learn how to pay attention. Teach them how to learn to follow instructions. Those lessons are life lessons that go way beyond baseball. Even the guys in the Major Leagues have a life after that. Learning how to listen to authority, learning how to be coachable, and to stay one thousand percent mindful and focused on the coaching that they are receiving is a gift we can give our kids.
LL: Do you have a favorite memory from Little League, as a coach or a player?
MR: I’ve had a lot of great memories. For me, it’s just been an overall wonderful experience. I pray each and every year that my sons and daughters get great coaches, and they have. It’s always been a pleasant experience for me.
LL: What does it mean to you to have kids play in multiple sports growing up rather than specializing in just one sport?
MR: I think it’s vital. I recruit kids that have played multiple sports because there is a transitive effect of competition. You need to learn how to compete and what competing means is relentlessly seeking to do your very best. Try to win when you can, but beyond that is having a second standard to make sure you are performing at your utmost best. We can never perform at our best every time, so you have to learn from it. Understand that when this is not my best, I have to try to do even better. It’s the competitive hunger, that competitive fire, that competitive advantage. That’s what makes you a great doctor, that’s what makes you a great teacher, that’s what makes you a great lawyer, when you learn at an early age. I want to recruit players and I want my own kids to be involved in multiple sports and learn multiple skills. The hand-eye coordination, balance, acceleration, there’s a physical component, but more importantly there’s a mental component about learning how to compete, overcome adversity and finding a way to win. That’s what kids should do all the time.
LL: Now that you live in Waco, are you looking to get involved in a local Little League program?
MR: Absolutely. I know my son is looking forward to playing Little League and some of my coaches are as well. I took him and a buddy to the Little League Baseball camp a year ago and he’s looking forward to playing again. I won’t be coaching, but I’ll be sitting out in the outfield watching.