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Little League® Gave Me My First Uniform...I Treasured It - Q&A with Wisconsin's Bo Ryan

Volume 3 | Issue 10 | November 2015 | Archive
Little League® Gave Me My First Uniform...I Treasured It
William “Bo” Ryan has been the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers men’s basketball team since 2001. His teams have won Big Ten titles, been ranked number-one in the country, and played in two consecutive NCAA Final Fours. He has coached some of the collegiate rank’s most elite players.

Coach Ryan learned a lot of his skills from his father, a man who coached youth sports at the local level in the Chester area of Pennsylvania for more than forty years. It was in the Sun Oil Little League that Coach Ryan got his first taste for organized sports. It was way back in the 1950s, but he can remember getting that first Little League® uniform like it was yesterday.

The Parent Connection recently sat down with Coach Ryan to discuss what that uniform met to him, his experience as a Little Leaguer®, the importance of kids playing multiple sports, and what baseball can teach Little Leaguers about life.

Little League: What do you remember most of your Little Leaguer experience?

Coach Ryan: Little League gave me my first uniform, and I treasured it. I was part of something. Part of a team. My league at the time was new, and it was a great scene. There were baseball fields, picnic areas, and basketball courts. I really liked Little League. It was a lot of fun. I played shortstop every year. We had a left-handed catcher, which I thought was different. I remember the small things like that.

LL: Your father was known locally for coaching many teams for decades. Did he ever coach you?

CR: My dad coached me in baseball for only one season. He never really wanted to coach me because he wanted me to learn from someone other than him. He worked with me in the backyard a lot, though. He coached for 40 years, and never did it for anything other than the kids. He never made a penny off of coaching. He coached before I played and after I played. He was not one of those fathers who coached just because he kid played, and then gave it up when their kid was done. We need more coaches who want to coach to help all the kids.

LL: In that one season he coached you, what do you remember?

CR: He was a no nonsense coach. Don’t get me wrong, we had fun, but he wanted us to learn the game, and play it right. One game, it was the bottom of the 6th, and we were down 11-7. We were coming up to bat. I guess he didn’t like how we came off the field – our heads were down because we were losing, we probably weren’t hustling. He gave us all a lesson I won’t forget. He told us that since we seemed to have given up, then he will too. He started leaving the dugout. One of the players said, “Coach, we have three outs to go!” He basically said, “Then act like it. Don’t give up.” Well, we didn’t. We rallied, and won. Everyone was jumping up and down when we scored the winning run. My dad took us all for ice cream after. That was fun.

LL: Did you work with your children the way your father worked with you?

CR: I never coached my kids in an organized sport, but I bought a house with an extra acre so we could have as much fun as possible playing in the backyard. I was like the neighborhood Athletic Director. We figured out what sport we wanted to play. If it was baseball, I was always the pitcher for the kids. We’d have kids from all over the neighborhood come over to play.

LL: In looking at your old Little League roster, with all of your travel, do you stay in touch with any of your ex-teammates?

CR: I loved seeing that roster! I remember all the players. I stay in touch with Bob Brown. He was a teacher in Michigan, and is still there. Whenever my team plays Michigan or Michigan State, he comes to the games, and we talk. That friendship started in Little League.

LL: What do you like most about the Little League program?

CR: Everyone gets to compete. Everyone bats. Everyone plays the field. That provides opportunity to learn, opportunity to gain some competitiveness, opportunity to succeed or fail, and learn from that. It also provides an opportunity for fun. Baseball in general is a lot like life. There will be tough hops, there will be strikeouts. There will be successes. It’s how you deal with all of those that matter.

LL: You played multiple sports growing up. How important is it for kids to not stick to just one sport?

CR: I played basketball, baseball, and football. They were basically the options. Kids today have more options, and it doesn’t matter what they choose as long as they choose something. Playing different sports provides different types of discipline, which is important in building character. Kids need to get out of the house, and play!

LL: What advice would you give Little League parents?

CR: All parents should allow their kids some space to breathe, whether it’s sports or academics. If parents are constantly on kids to improve or do this or that, they’ll lose interest. If you decide to coach your Little Leaguer, make sure the coaching / player relationship is a positive one. It’s okay to give some tough love, but be fair about it. Don’t single them out for anything, good or bad, just because they are your kid. Hold yourself and your kid accountable. Winning is fun, but the stuff done to get there is more important.

LL: Any advice for Little Leaguers?

CR: Have fun, and remember there is always another chance. If you strike out, there will be another at-bat. Enjoy everything about Little League...the friends, the games, the practices. And, don’t be only a Little Leaguer, and don’t play only sports. Go fishing, go swimming. Be active, have fun, work hard.
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The Parent Connection - November 2015 - Archive