Coaches, no matter what sport, always want to transform their players’ lives, and one Zionsville little league coach is being recognized for his hard work.
Mark Kowal, the coach for the Little League softball team Orange Crush, was named one of five finalists for the Hilton Hhonors Outstanding Coach Contest.
Tony Firmani, who has a daughter that has played on Kowal’s team, nominated him for the award.
“(Kowal) has a very strong Christian foundation,” Firmani said. “He’s more interested in positive attitudes and developing character than wins and losses. He goes out of his way to make each girl on his team feel special. At the end of each season, he hand writes each girl a note saying how much they meant to him and the team. He’s really helping to shape the lives of girls in the community.”
Kowal said he couldn’t believe it when he heard he was named one of the finalists.
“I thought for sure there was something (Firmani) misread or didn’t understand,” he said. “I didn’t think that a Zionsville coach could be considered for it.”
Kowal said to be named one of the five finalists was very humbling.
“I appreciated it very much,” he said. “When I look at what other people coach, they invest in the game but not lives. I want my girls to be good players, but I want them to be better girls.”
Kowal said he coaches the girls as if they were his own daughters.
“I pour every ounce of love into these girls,” he said. “I treat them like I would my daughter, and I treat their families like my family. When we’re together, we’re together as a family that just happens to be playing softball.”
Kowal said another important part of his coaching style is that he provides a safe environment for the girls.
“There is absolutely no bullying or talking down,” he said. “You can only build a person up. The kids know this is my belief. They aren’t allowed to get on each other for making a bad play or for giving up a game winning home run. They have to find ways to build someone up and encourage them.”
Kowal said he isn’t always the nice guy and will use discipline if his team isn’t performing to their potential.
“I’m not always the nicey-nicey, hunky dory guy,” he said. “If they are not giving their best, I can tell them that I am giving my best with coaching and expect the best from them in playing. I know when they aren’t giving their best, and I will correct them.”
This year, Orange Crush finished third with a record of 10-10, but that doesn’t bother Kowal.
“There’s nothing wrong with finishing with that record,” he said. “I think if you finish 20-0, you’re not doing enough for the kids; you’re playing only the best players and not developing them. If you finish 0-20, you’re not doing enough as a coach. I would have loved to have won a championship just because the girls worked so hard.”
Kowal said he isn’t a coach just for his own players.
“I’ve been doing it long enough to know most of the girls out there,” he said. “I cheer on the other players because I’m not just out there for the 12 girls on my team. I’m there for both sides. If we’re there to teach kids about life and softball, I’m absolutely there for both sides.”
Visit the Hilton Hhonors Outstanding Coach Contest Facebook page to vote for Kowal. Voting ends Wednesday, July 11.
Kowal said the voting is tallied by the comments left for each coach, and the quality of the comments is more important than the number of comments.
If Kowal is selected as the winner, he will win a trip to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Penn. and throw out the first pitch for one of the games.