Kailani Serapion is a 9-year-old softball player, and a fourth-grader this year at Huddleston Elementary. Her softball experience is a good example of what the Peachtree City Girls Softball League strives for, and the dad she misses a lot is a key part of our league.
Kailani’s dad, Guy Serapion, is a teacher. He is also a U.S. Army National Guard Infantry staff sergeant deployed to Afghanistan since last April, working in the city of Gardez where he is engaged as an advisor to the Afghan National Police Force, which also serves as their military.
Sgt. Serapion is teaching Afghans how to do their job as a security force, and he is teaching them how to read. He was deployed to Iraq in the infantry for a year in 2005, and for nine months in 2000 to Bosnia.
Serving in the National Guard used to be a citizen-soldier commitment of one weekend per month and readiness to act in case of national crisis, but the load our National Guard troops have been carrying in recent years is darn heavy, and they carry it for you and me.
Like Guy, they have to leave their family and miss some critical growing years of their children, sometimes leaving their family in financial duress as they take leaves of absence from their regular job to serve.
Guy hopes to return to his fifth-grade teaching job at Huddleston Elementary when his deployment is over, but Fayette County can’t guarantee him the school or grade he will be assigned. These are some of the sacrifices our soldiers endure on our behalf, never mind the physical hazards.
We owe Guy, and all the others deployed, more than we can ever repay.
In Guy’s case we also miss him in the softball league. Since she was 4 years old, Kailani has played softball on Coach Joe Serratelli’s team with her dad serving as assistant coach. Guy helped Joe implement the ideals of our league, something that Joe has always done by second nature but which takes considerable guidance and thought for most coaches.
As we teach girls age 4 to 18 to play the game, Peachtree City Girls Softball strives to achieve a different goal than many leagues that emphasize winning above all things.
Mike Pullias deserves the credit for setting our league goal as the development of the kids instead of just winning. Our coaches are strongly encouraged to teach players in a way that will not only make them a better player but a better person, like respect for authority, respect for their opponents, teamwork, keeping commitments to the team, enjoying the friendship with their teammates, sportsmanship, trying hard to do things that are very difficult and failing but trying harder again and again until they succeed, playing the game with integrity, fairness, and decent behavior by coaches, parents and players.
We bring in Doug Brantley, owner of 5-Star Baseball in Peachtree City, the best coach I know and an absolute scientist as a batting coach, to guide and remind our coaches how to motivate the kids and teach them in a nurturing style that elevates them as a player and as a person, and that winning will follow. It does.
Some coaches want too badly to win, pushing the kids too hard or stooping below the adult level on the field when a bad umpire call goes against the team, maybe allowing occasional boorish parent behavior. Those coaches forget the game is about the girls, not the coaches or the parents, and they are not a good fit for our league.
When Kailani started playing softball years ago she had the good fortune of Joe Serratelli as her coach, and her dad Guy as assistant coach, adding his soft touch to Joe’s quick smile and patient manner with the kids. Bill Quarles, who is now our league president and will be Kailani’s coach this spring, worked with Joe and Guy on the field, too, as did a well-known man I will leave nameless for the sake of his family privacy.
The gentle manner on the field by Joe Serratelli and Guy Serapion are good examples for other coaches trying to understand the values we set as a priority in our league.
They also provide an amusing contrast to me and why I can never be a coach – I’m too old and fat and cranky, and I never had any patience to begin with. I doubt I could get through an hour coaching 8-year-old girls on a softball field without having to run screaming into the woods looking for something sharp to hurt myself. But we have some fine coaches and don’t need me.
I’ve served on the board of this league for far longer than the normal two-year stint, and I volunteer because the values of our league have made my own daughter a better and more self-confident person than I would have believed possible.
As a board we just recently awakened to how we can and should honor Guy’s service to our league and to our country, and we have done that in a private way in addition to this public comment.
Maybe we as a league are typical of people all across America. Our heart is with our troops, we know the load they carry for the rest of us is too heavy, and we often forget to step off the daily treadmill to say thanks.
So thanks to Guy and his wife Nicole, and to Kailani, her brother Makoa (4) and sister Nami (10 months), for the service your family has given to your country. We are proud to have you in our league, and we eagerly await Guy’s return, whether he takes a break in the bleachers or helps herd cats on the field.
I’m betting I’ll see him moving around the field, doing things gently and in harmony with our league goals, ideals I help maintain by staying off the field.
[Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]