From the Playwright
my son, Sam, came home from Little League practice and announced that
his coaches had provided the team with new strategy for the upcoming
playoffs. When one of the slower kids on the team got on base, he'd
receive a signal which meant that upon reaching the next base, he
should slide and pretend to be injured. That way, the coaches could
take him out of the game and replace him with a faster runner. When Sam
said, "Coach, isn't that cheating?" the coach replied, "No, Sam, that's
I was horrified. Is this how our
children are being trained to deal with competition? How
of Rick and Sam Dresser by Mike Disciullo
Enrons are brewing on our Little League fields and in our school gyms
under the watchful eyes of over-zealous
coaches? What about building
character and encouraging fair play? Or are such notions laughable in
this country at this point in history? At that moment I knew that I had
to write Rounding Third. But, as the play was germinating in my head, I
found myself thrust more intimately into the fray, first as an
assistant coach and then as the coach of my son's team.
there was no question about where I stood. Little League should be fun
and the kids should be encouraged to progress at their own speed, free
of the overwhelming pressure that awaits them in practically every
aspect of their lives, just around the corner.
yet, when I found myself actually coaching, I discovered that I wanted
to win. I really wanted to win. That voice I heard bellowing across the
diamond was, sadly, my own. Perhaps to rationalize the extent of these
feelings, I concluded that since we live in such a highly competitive
society, don't we have an obligation to teach our children how to
succeed? Given that this is the arena where they will be playing out
their lives, shouldn't we equip them with the tools it takes to win?
the time I wrote the play, I believed passionately in these opposing
points of view. We should protect and nurture our children during this
brief, precious time in their lives. And we should teach them how to
compete and how to win.
The two mismatched coaches
in Rounding Third, the "win at all costs" Don and the "can't we just
have fun?" Michael, reflect this conflict. In my mind, they never agree
and they are both right. And as they struggle to communicate their
opposing philosophies to the team, they reveal who they are. The play
ultimately became an exploration of what it is to be a man in this
culture, how having children changes one's self-perceptions, and what
it truly means to succeed.
Now, when I hear Don's
exhortations to the team-which are delivered directly to the audience-I
hear the voices of the many coaches I've had, starting with my first
year of Little League. And I hear my own voice, more impatiently than
I'd like, instructing, imploring, urging the team on to victory.
when I hear Michael encouraging the team after a tough loss or
fervently praying for his own hapless son to catch his first fly ball
of the season, I hear the hopefulness and the innocence that seems both
entirely appropriate and somewhat out of touch.
horror I felt at hearing my son's description of his coach's "strategy"
provided a powerful trigger to write a play. But writing the play was
an act of discovery, reflecting my own conflicts about how we live with
some kind of dignity and raise our children in a culture so ruthlessly
obsessed with material success.