If you’re a frequent flyer, Coach of the Week Matt Dixon has been working to make your air travel more comfortable for the last 30-years. That is, when he’s not’s coaching the 18U Savannah Indians travel softball team.
50-year-old Coach Dixon is a Research and New Product Development expert in the aerospace industry specializing in cabin interiors for the world’s leading long-range business class jets. When he’s not exerting his energies with the best and brightest in the jetting field, Coach Dixon and his wife Melissa (whom he met on the job), hit the fields with their 17-year-old daughter Taylor.
Coach Dixon just completed his first season as head coach of the 18U Indians travel team. With just five returning players from the 2008 travel season, Coach Dixon had many new faces, representing five different counties in Georgia to work with. Chemistry wasn’t an issue, as Coach Dixon expressed that the girls immediately meshed and kept their heads high.
He wrote, “I’ve had parents come up to me during a game and say they couldn’t tell if we were winning or losing because the girls demeanor was always the same.”
The Indians finished with a 17-22 record, with 15 of those games lost by three runs or less and eight lost by just a single run. More importantly, the girls competed in eight tournaments, finishing with two championship titles (the highlight being the ASA Queen of Diamonds in Savannah, Ga.). They also secured a 2nd-place finish and two 3rd-place tournament finishes, not bad for a new head coach and mostly new players.
Coach Dixon and the Indians closed out their 2009 season competing in the 54-team, ASA Southern Star Team Showcase in Savannah. The girls played extremely well against a great lineup of competitive teams representing seven states.
Though this was Coach Dixon’s first challenge as travel team head coach, he’s been assisting with Taylor’s teams since 2000, when she first joined a YMCA 8U softball. A frequent parent at practices and games, he was immediately tapped to be Head Coach Brandi Mills’ assistant, a role he filled until Taylor’s first year in the 12U age bracket. That year, the team went undefeated, and was the championship team of their rec league. They earned a ticket to the Georgia state playoffs where they finished fourth.
“We had a blast!” wrote Coach Dixon. “I think I had more fun than the girls.”
The very next season, he began his head-coaching career as Coach Brandi moved up to a new division. Coach Dixon then took on two years of 14U rec ball as well as assisting two seasons of Taylor’s middle school softball team (who landed two-successive 2nd-place season finishes). Even more, he also assisted on Taylor’s championship winning 7th-grade volleyball team and was head coach of the 8th-grade volleyball team, which took home a 3rd-place season finish. Coach Dixon and Taylor eventually found themselves back under Head Coach Brandi’s umbrella when they joined the 16U Savannah Indians travel ball team.
Coach Dixon has had quite a coaching ride leading up to his prestigious 18U travel team head coaching position. But he’s most proud of the fact that he’s missed only one of Taylor’s games (softball, volleyball and basketball combined) in the 10-plus years she’s participated in youth sports. “I intend on that being the last one I ever miss,” wrote Coach Dixon.
Coach Dixon’s Keys to Success:
My coaching philosophy has always been constructive criticism, positive reinforcement and encouragement.
I always try to remain calm.
Stress the importance of fundamentals.
Teach your players to learn from their mistakes, then move on to the next play (because the next play is the only one that matters at that moment).
Finally, always stress the importance of the positives a player has done while discussing an error and how it could be handled on future plays.
For example: a player makes a long run for a fly ball and drops it trying to make a one-handed catch. I'd tell them "use two hands next time, but you did a great job of hustling to get yourself in position to make the play".
I never have, and never will, yell at or berate a player for making mistakes. Everyone has or will make their share at some time.
Coach Dixon you are a fine example of a committed father who transitioned his love of spots into an outlet for giving back. Turns out, you just happened to get as much enjoyment out coaching as your girls do from playing. Cheers to you coach!