Lang­don Critch more than a coach, writes for­mer player

The Compass - - NEWS - BY JENNIFER LODER — Sub­mit­ted by Jennifer Loder, who teaches at Bac­calieu Col­le­giate in Old Per­li­can, and was one of a group of play­ers — un­der Lang’s tute­lage — who helped re­vive mi­nor soft­ball in Bay Roberts about eight years ago. Lang was 82 when he p

I was about 10 years-of-age on a June morn­ing back in the early 70s when I got a phone call from Lang­don Critch.

“Jenny, do you want to play soft­ball? I’m go­ing to start a team. Come to the field at two this af­ter­noon.”

And so be­gan my jour­ney into soft­ball with “Lang” as my coach, teacher and friend.

I was never a star, but I learned how to be a team player un­der Lang’s in­struc­tion. But he taught me a lot more than that.

For the next eight sum­mers, I learned — along with all my friends, in­clud­ing Natalie, Rex­ine, Francine, Sonya, Genny, Claire, Cathy, Jackie and many oth­ers — how to play soft­ball.

In­ter­spersed with those lessons were the count­less lessons about life be­stowed upon us all through Lang’s pres­ence in our lives.

If we got clunked on the side of the head with a soft­ball — they re­ally are not that soft — Lang would quickly jog over to us, as­sess the dam­age and then char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally pro­nounce: “The main thing is not to worry.”

Al­though we were of­ten miffed with his seem­ingly “care­less” at­ti­tude re­gard­ing our in­juries, Lang taught us that, in the great scheme of things, mi­nor is­sues like these should not be ex­ag­ger­ated.

There were more im­por­tant things to worry about. We all sur­vived in­tact, and I be­lieve our col­lec­tive abil­i­ties to deal with all the wor­ries and tan­gles that life of­ten pre­sents to us these days were in­grained in us through those long sum­mer days spent play­ing ball with Lang. There are very few, if any, “di­vas” among my dear­est child­hood soft­ball bud­dies.

A com­pas­sion­ate man

On those days when the blis­ter­ing sun was drain­ing the en­ergy from our bod­ies as we prac­ticed for the in­vari­able up­com­ing provin­cial tour­na­ments, Lang would of­ten dis­ap­pear from the field for 10 or 15 min­utes, only to trot quickly back onto the field with a box of Pop­si­cles he had pur­chased from the Brook­field ice cream ware­house up over the hill.

Al­though not outwardly so, our trea­sured coach was a com­pas­sion­ate man who took great care of his “play­ers.” And those rare Pop­si­cle treats taught us all to ap­pre­ci­ate gifts from oth­ers, whether big or small.

In the early years of play­ing ball, our Bay Roberts team was of­ten pit­ted against the Spa­niard’s Bay team. These games were or­ches­trated by Lang, of course. He would tele­phone each one of us in­di­vid­u­ally from his workplace at D.B. Rus­sell’s to ad­vise us of the time and we would all meet at the field, wait­ing for the Spa­niard’s Bay team to ar­rive in the taxis that Lang had ar­ranged and paid for out of his own pocket.

We al­ways won, but we knew in our hearts that it was sim­ply be­cause we had Lang on an al­most daily ba­sis to teach us the skills of the game, while the Spa­niard’s Bay girls only oc­ca­sion­ally got his tute­lage.

Friend­ships forged

The funny thing was, though, that as we got older, many of us be­came close friends with those Spa­niard’s Bay girls — some of them in­clude Marge, Betty, Cyn­thia, Rose Ann and Nancy — and they even­tu­ally be­came im­por­tant and val­ued mem­bers of our re­gional teams. And they were good. If not for Lang, we would have all missed out on those op­por­tu­ni­ties to form new and life­long friends.

Back in the 70s, be­cause of the de­nom­i­na­tional school sys­tem, we of­ten didn’t know the kids in our own neigh­bour­hoods, be­cause many of us went to dif­fer­ent schools. I credit Lang for my friend­ships with Cathy, Claire and Genny, and al­though we don’t see each other much or run in the same cir­cles, there still re­mains that mag­i­cal bond of soft­ball among us.

I was never a star player, es­pe­cially in left field, which was my “spot,” but when I was 11 years-of-age, I could hit a home run like no­body else on our team. It was a very spe­cial mo­ment for me then, at the soft­ball ban­quet held in the old Amal­ga­mated school gym at the end of sum­mer, when I was pre­sented with the tro­phy for “Most Home Runs” for our team.

I’m pretty con­fi­dent that this award wasn’t one of the usual ones, but Lang made sure that I was rec­og­nized for my “15 min­utes of fame.” That tro­phy made me the proud­est 11year-old in Bay Roberts.

So Lang taught me an­other life les­son; the im­por­tance of ac­knowl­edg­ing the achieve­ments of oth­ers, no mat­ter how mi­nus­cule they are.

We didn’t al­ways win the provin­cial tour­na­ments, but we were com­pet­i­tive and re­spectable teams be­cause of Lang­don Critch. He never failed to put the losses in per­spec­tive for us, say­ing: “There’s al­ways next year.”

That was a valu­able les­son too — none of us would be win­ners all the time. So we ap­proached adult­hood armed with the knowl­edge that it was OK to lose. We would just try harder next time.

We learned the im­por­tance of be­ing on time, be­cause other people were count­ing on us. We learned the im­por­tance of cheer­ing on our team­mates and friends, even when they weren’t the best play­ers on the team. We learned the im­por­tance of fair play and per­se­ver­ance when the go­ing gets tough. We learned the im­por­tance of giv­ing ev­ery­one equal op­por­tu­nity, and we re­al­ized, later in life, that we had led charmed lives in our youth­ful years be­cause we had had the most won­der­fully kind, gen­er­ous and pa­tient man to help lead us through to adult­hood.

Thank you, Lang.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.