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Acadiana Lifestyle

The Players & The Prayers

06/24/2016 03:08PM ● By Robert Frey

By Amanda Jean Harris

“The best little children’s program” is what Lucy Hebert calls the Coteau Park Program.

While competition is at the cornerstone of many children’s sports program with winning at all cost as the mantra, things are done differently at Coteau. When Hebert speaks about the baseball program that has been around for more than four decades it’s clear this is not your average program and her heart is for more than sports. She cares very much for the children and those impacted by the game more than anything on a scoreboard.

“Our children pray and they play,” she says.

Beginning at less than 3 years old, the league has hundreds of children who are learning about sports and sportsmanship. The message is clear and simple: These sports are about more than sports. 

“At 2 and half years old or 3 years old they are playing on the fields and they don’t know what they are doing. You see them at the first practice compared to the last ballgame and how the child grows in one season,” she says.

In a matter of one season many children blossom. They go from barely understanding which base is first to getting a hang of the game. 

One of the more distinct differences at Coteau is the emphasis on prayer, which is clear at every game.

“We teach them the Lord’s prayer and they say it at every practice and every game. Some of these children want to go home and learn it so they can lead it and it’s amazing to see how they love to do it,” she says.

Instead of shouting or put downs, correction comes with hugs. 

“The discipline action is filled with love,” Hebert says. “These are all parents helping. There are no professionals here.”

While the foundation of Coteau is connected to faith, there is still much room for excellence. The program doesn’t promote anything at the cost of children working hard and trying as best they can.

“We want them to do their best. We encourage them to make friends and to cheer for both teams no matter what team you’re on,” she says.

At the end of each game they go to the mound for the Lord’s Prayer and to give thanksgiving for a game well done.

“They thank God for their health and their ability to run and jump and play,” she says. 

It is this focus on prayer and the inner person that Hebert says has supported the program’s growth. And it helps that local clergy have entered the fold as well.

“Our pastors have always been supportive of the program,” she says. “They have encouraged us by being at the ball park and serving in the organization on their own however they are able.”

A new pastor has been most recently involved, she says. Proof the input doesn’t stop as pastors continue to pour into Coteau. 

“Baseball starts and he is here helping at the concession stand and encouraging children,” she says. “Father Paul Thibodeaux has been gone from the parish for years and he was so supportive of our program that I would literally tell him it would last late and he had early Mass in the morning and I would tell him ‘we can do it without you’ and he would say ‘but you don’t understand. I enjoy it.’ He was helping us and we were helping him. Everything here is volunteer.”

From the umpires and coaches to the parents running the details of all games and practices, concessions and clean up. Hebert is at the helm of a group that is devoted to kids.

“They call me the boss, but I am their friend,” she says.

And it’s perhaps this approach of friendship that garners the respect of parents and stakeholders that show up year after year in every imaginable capacity.

“Everything I ask for I get it double fold,” she says.

Parents are truly stepping up. The concession stand is more than just bags of chips — the crew is famous for their burgers.

“Coteau burgers are great and everyone loves them,” she says. “The help is all parishioners that come and help serve.”

In addition to helping out, people keep bringing their kids back for generation after generation. 

“Children whose parents played in the program come back,” Hebert says.

And that includes parents who have moved away from the area in some cases.

‘They come from surrounding areas like Loreauville and Broussard, Youngsville and New Iberia. They come and play in Coteau. We demand prayer and it’s fun we get in the end.”

All teams are named after birds and shirts read “Jesus Coaches Me For Life.”

When the program started there weren’t enough teams and the kids would need to travel to play against anyone else.

“We maybe had enough for one team of each age group,” Hebert says. “Coteau grew and grew and grew and we have more teams now.”

There are at least 400 kids registered at present. And while Hebert is thankful for the growth, she is more focused on the individual stories of the players and their families. She is more concerned with how the program can make a difference in the life of one family than she is growing a program for the sake of growing the program.

‘There was one dad who was stationed in Iraq and we sent him a video of his son’s games. They were the Eagles and played against the Blue Jays. His son ran straight to third base after hitting the ball and everyone was screaming,” she recalls with a laugh. “Two years later the dad came to meet me at the concession stand and said he had never seen a better sight than that game. It’s those experiences that make it all worth it. I’m getting old, but I love it because I see so much love and kindness and generosity and people wanting to help each other here. It’s just beautiful.”