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5 Questions with David Belisle

Volume 2 | Issue 12 | December 2014 | Archive
5 Questions with David Belisle
There’s a good chance that you’ve already been inspired by David Belisle. As the Manager of the Cumberland (R.I.) American Little League team at the 2014 Little League Baseball® World Series, Mr. Belisle’s speeches to his team, the New England Region Champions, became one of the biggest stories of this year’s Little League® season. Since the World Series, he has been nominated as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and received the Musial Award from the National Sportsmanship Foundation.

Mr. Belisle is no stranger to the spotlight or the coach’s box. He and his wife, Nancy, have four sons. He’s coached them all in ice hockey and Little League, taking two teams to Williamsport, in 2011 and 2014. The son of one of the most iconic, successful high school ice hockey coaches in New England, Mr. Belisle has used his family’s sporting experiences to improve the lives of the players he’s coached on the ice and baseball field.

The Parent Connection caught up with Coach Belisle to talk about his coaching pedigree and the importance of sports to his family.

TPC: As the son of a coach, how important are sports to your family?

DB: It’s been a huge part of our life. I have three brothers, and our father coached all four of us in Little League and three of us in hockey. We learned from our father the importance of youth sports and the fundamentals of the games – developing character while respecting the game, respecting your teammates, and respecting your opponents.

I have coached all four of my boys in both Little League and youth hockey, using those same basics of the game that my father taught me. If you can develop character while having fun, you will have a competitive edge.

David Belisle and his son John at
the 2014 Little League Baseball®
World Series.
TPC: You have coached a lot of games in youth sports, including six at the Little League Baseball World Series, how do you compare the experience of coaching at the local level and at the World Series?

DB: I have been blessed to achieve the maximum level of coaching. But I think that if you coach at any level, you need to spend time coaching at the youth level to refresh yourself and get to the heart of sports.

I have coached my whole life, from children as young as 5 and 6 years old to 19- and 20-year-olds. And I’ve had the honor of being mentored by my father. Through that experience, I have learned to stress the importance of every player being involved in every play, either directly or indirectly. What’s important when coaching youth sports is that it’s not necessarily what you think, but what your players think, and how to use that to get the most out of them. The players’ needs outweigh yours, as a coach and parent.

TPC: Having coached all of your sons in multiple sports, does having them on your team make it more special?

DB: It really does. I care so much about my children and always want the best for them. It has been a gift to be their coach and share in their growth as young athletes.

What I admire the most, though, is not only seeing them grow individually as athletes, but also maturing into great teammates and respectful players. It’s been humbling to help them achieve their goals on the field and off. I think the biggest satisfaction is seeing that their teammates and other parents and individuals recognize all four of my sons the same way I see them and respect them for their character, not necessarily their game performance.

All of my players are special to me, but it’s extra special to coach my sons.

TPC: What are the most important lessons that you have been able to share with your Little League players over the years?

DB: I think that one thing whether it’s hockey or baseball, is that you need to be fundamentally sound in order to move forward. Matt Wright, one of the coaches of our World Series team this year, and I are sticklers about doing it the proper way, and correcting players if they aren’t doing something fundamentally sound. Even if someone successfully makes a play, but didn’t do it the right way, we coach them to do it correctly. It’s important to remind them when they come off the field how it should be done.

When you’re coaching the fundamentals, it’s important to be consistent with all the players but not compare them. Don’t isolate them when teaching. If someone needs a couple extra ground balls to develop their skills, that doesn’t mean someone who has completed the drill successfully doesn’t deserve those ground balls, too. You have to be patient when coaching youth sports, and follow up with compliments and praise.

TPC: Since the World Series, you’ve had some special moments and recognitions, including meeting a fellow Little League graduate, Joe Torre, at the Musial Awards and being nominated as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. What has that meant to you?

DB: Joe Torre coming up to me at the Musial Awards just shows what kind of baseball manager, player, and person he is. He approached me and held my face and told me how wonderful my speech was. He said that he gave a talk like that to the Yankees after the 2004 season when the Yankees lost to the Red Sox. He was so comfortable and appreciative of me for bringing back those memories and for taking the time to coach and the importance of communications in times when a team is down.

He almost treated me like I was the celebrity. I am a big Yankees fan, and here is my idol approaching me. Joe Torre is everything you want as a coach, he seldom argued, was very respectful and well-liked by his players. It was wonderful meeting him.

The Sportsman of the Year nomination caught me by surprise. There are thousands of people that Sports Illustrated could recognize, and it’s an incredible honor. Sportsman of the year. What more could you want? You can’t take wins and loses with you. I was just fortunate and lucky enough to have a wonderful team with so much character perform so well at the ultimate stage, the Little League Baseball World Series. Without the kids performing the way they did, I am not in the position to be nominated for such a great award. That speech I gave - I didn’t have anything prepared. It just came from the heart and all those years of coaching.

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The Parent Connection - December 2014 - Archive