Inside Preps: Their Last Game Together
Wed. May 09, 2012 at 1:03 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
By SOLANGE REYNER | THE LEDGER
Auburndale's softball game on Tuesday had a sad ending, but it wasn't only because the team lost in the state semifinals.
It was a bittersweet finish, particularly for head coach Mike Littles.
The good: He's got a team stacked with talented underclassmen, so don't be surprised if the Bloodhounds make it back to the state tournament next year.
The sour: Deanna Littles, Mike's daughter, played her last game in blue and gold, her last game with her dad as her coach.
I often hear of parents coaching their kids and think to myself, "That will never work."
Case in point: One time, my dad thought I wasn't giving enough of an effort during a high school water polo game. So he came over and pulled me out of the water (by my hair). Granted, I was ignoring him, warranting the hair pull.
And he wasn't even my coach.
I'm sure Mike and Deanna have had those frustrating moments. I'm not sure whether he's pulled her hair — I didn't ask.
"There are times where I wanted to gnaw at her because she wasn't doing well," Littles said.
But that's when an assistant coach would step in. It's not like those instances happened often because Mike is pretty laid back, according to the girls on the team.
Even if he did get on to Deanna, it was to make her better, she said.
She performed well this season, batting .354 with 20 RBIs and 34 hits as the starting second baseman.
Mike relied on her to be one of the team leaders, too. Deanna was one of two senior starters on the team — Kayla Grinslade is the other — and she was always one of the players to keep the team focused.
She had some pressure, for sure, from dad.
This is the way she wanted it. She asked for him to be a part of her life in sports.
It started when she was seven.
Then, she was playing tee-ball in Auburndale. Mike was coaching baseball at a field close by.
"I would run over and watch her all the time," he said, tears welling up in his eyes after the game while talking about it.
One day, she asked for his help.
She said, "Dad why are you still coaching over there? I want you to coach me."
Done and done. How could he turn down daddy's little girl?
Eventually, he took over at Auburndale and coached her there for four years. They won't share the same dugout next season, something both cried about a little after the game.
But not to worry because Deanna won't be too far away.
She'll play at Polk State College in Winter Haven.
"I'm excited for Auburndale. It's going to be strong for the next 4 to 5 years," Mike Littles said. When asked about his seniors, he said he wishes he "could keep all of them."
Especially his little girl.
[ Solange Reyner can be reached at 863-802-7526 or firstname.lastname@example.org.. ]