by: Cliff Newell, 
Lakeridge youth football coach Michael Mott was recently named a Responsible Coach winner for the 2007 season.

Michael Mott very nearly deleted the email announcing that he had been named as one of the Responsible Coach winners of 2007 by Liberty Mutual.

'I thought it was spam,' Mott admitted.

But Mott had not only gained some nice national recognition, he earned $500 from Liberty Mutual's Responsible Sports for the Lakeridge Youth Football League.

So Mott is not only responsible, he's profitable. It was well deserved recognition for the resident of Lake Grove, who has been coaching youth sports for 17 years.

It all began when a slot opened up for an assistant coach on a kindergarten soccer team.

'I knew nothing about soccer then,' Mott said. 'But they really needed help. I kind of got rolling with it.'

He certainly did. Over the years Mott has coached football, basketball and baseball, which is his favorite sports.

'It's been fun,' Mott said. 'It's great to see kids grow and progress. I have a great belief that sports can offer so much more than competition. There's all kinds of stuff, like learning to deal with pressure and gaining confidence. You learn a lot about life.'

The basic tenet of Mott's coaching philosophy is to let every kid play. That is not always easy to stick with when victory is all so important even in youth sports. But Mott is absolutely staunch about this.

'If you don't let a kid play, you're just throwing him away,' he said. 'You're telling him he's no good. For sports to be fun for a kid, he has got to be a viable part of the team. To do that he's got to play.

'It works. You may lose a grounder here and there or you may lose the chance for a double play. But you don't have a kid who is sitting and sitting and sitting, and all of a sudden he's at the plate and he doesn't know what to do. When they play they know what's going on and they produce.'

Still, Mott cares very much that his players learn how to play the game.

'Some coaches let everybody play, but they just let the kids run around out there and not learn the game,' he said. 'I have a level of expectation. I want my kids to learn and my job is to get them there.'

Mott avoids the specter of 'the jerk coach.' Even when faced with bad officiating.

'I've seen a lot of coaches get mad and yell about the umpiring,' Mott said. 'I tell my kids that you're going to get bad calls. Umpires are human. They have to play good enough to win no matter what the call is. If you get mad, the situation usually escalates and you get more bad calls.

'In the long run, losses and statistics don't matter. What matters is what a kid learns and whether he's still playing and having fun.'

With 17 years of youth sports coaching, Mott has certainly done his civic duty. But there is no end in sight for his coaching career. Right now he is interested in coaching his youngest son Eric, a fourth grader.

Since Eric is showing an aptitude for lacrosse, Mott might even give a shot at coaching that sport, even if it means starting from the ground up in the knowledge department.

'Coaching is still fun,' he said. 'I've learned so much over the years.'

Perhaps Michael Mott deserves an award for wisdom, too.

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