Good Hinsdale dads spread their patience beyond their families
Adults have to set the right example for kids, Little League Coach Keven Knaul says. "You have to pay attention to how you act and how you react to children." | Kimberly Fornek~Sun-Times Media
What do you think makes the best Father’s Day gift?
“Seeing your children grow into young adults with your guidance, and seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Again.” Jeff Saunders said.
“Saying no,” Kevin Knaul said. “I’m a sucker and they know it, and exploit it. It’s funny to watch their little minds work the system. They know that if they ask for something and (my wife) says no, that’s the end of it and I’ll agree with her. However, they’ve done the math and realized their probability of success increases 5-fold by coming to me first.”
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:47AM
Parents whose children had Kevin Knaul as a baseball coach have asked for him to coach their child’s team the next year, too.
“He’s so patient and he’s very thorough,” said Sheryl Marcet, whose 6-year-old son Brody is on the Little League team Knaul coaches.
“We are here to teach them a sport and good sportsmanship,” Knaul of Hinsdale said. “It’s all volunteer, but I think you should prepare for it like a job and mentally prepare for it, too.”
Knaul sees three levels of player interest. “About a third are natural athletes with a passion for the game.” Another third seem to enjoy socializing at the game as much as they do playing the sport, Knaul said. And some are there only, “because their parents want them to be.”
He thinks about how he can make it fun for all of them.
“I make sure the kids are watching the other batters and encouraging them, so they get excited about playing together, and they’ll want to try harder and play harder.”
Kelly Lim, whose 7-year-old son Noah is on the Rangers with Knaul’s son Carter, said she liked how Knaul found something good to highlight about each child’s play.
“Each kid got recognized for doing something this season,” Lim said. “And each kid got a game ball.”
Tiffany Knaul said her son Carter, 5, enjoys having his father as his coach. “He loves it.”
It takes a lot to get her husband angry, she said. “And even when he’s angry, he’s not a yeller.”
“I used to work in corporate America and traveled Monday through Friday,” Kevin Knaul said. “But when we started our family in 2006, I went out to work on my own,” specifically so he would have more time to spend with his children.
“I think becoming a father makes a man a better person,” Kevin Knaul said. “I spent the first 12 years of my professional career trying to set good examples by mentoring individuals in a business environment, but never did I try as hard or smile as much as I do teaching Emily (his 7-year-old daughter) and Carter.”
Lots of activities occur that he can share with his son, but he seeks out ones, like an Indian Princess camp out, that he can do with his daughter, who prefers singing and performing to sports.
“We roasted marshmallows,” Emily said. “We went on a boat ride, without my mom and Carter.”
“It’s important she have that one-on-one time with me,” Kevin Knaul said. “She had my full attention.”
Jeff Saunders has coached baseball and serves as assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 52 in Hinsdale, in which his two sons, Matthew, 15, and P.J., 12, are members.
“It’s kind of good to have someone as a leader who knows you pretty well,” Matt Saunders said.
“I have a very strong belief in the principles of scouting and I thought with my scouting experience I could help my son and the boys who joined at the same time he did,” said Jeff Saunders, who is an Eagle Scout himself.
“He has a unique way of teaching me,” Matt said. “He doesn’t tell me how to accomplish something. He gives me advice about how to do it and then if I try and fail, I learn from what I did wrong.”
That actually is the hardest part of fatherhood, Jeff Saunders said: “Forcing yourself to stay back and letting your children learn by failing at something.”
Saunders has accompanied the troop on numerous camping trips, including a 10-day wilderness trip last summer at the Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico.
“You get to see them mature, take on responsibility and grow into young men, which is very satisfying,” Jeff Saunders said. It requires patience to balance letting the boys develop leadership skills, while still providing guidance. “So much in the world is organized for kids, . . . it’s amazing to me how these boys step up when they are given the opportunity to step up.”
“My dad is pretty good at making things fun, but serious at the same time,” Matt Saunders said. “I know a lot of dads. Some are all about fun and others are very strict. My dad is a pretty good mix of both.”