Interview with Jimmy Bush

jimmy-bushI was pretty excited about being able to do this interview. Jimmy Bush has some impressive kickball credentials. He is the director of a brand new kickball league in Jacksonville, FL (LASER), event manager for the Jacksonville Kickball Open (a Circuit Event) and his team recently won the Circuit Championship Weekend in San Antonio. That is a lot of kickball accomplishments for one person!

How long have you been playing kickball?

I am 6 1/2 years in to my kickball “career” and still maintain to this day that it was the single best decision I ever made for my social life. I was new to the area, from Michigan, and kickball proved to be the perfect remedy. Many of my closest friendships today are a direct result of playing kickball.

Did you play sports in high school or have a history of sports before kickball?

I did have a history of athletic involvement prior to kickball. I played soccer, basketball, ran track, and occasionally played recreational hockey in high school. Post high school, I stuck to soccer and attempted to maintain that until I realized I wasn’t 17 anymore. Kickball came at a perfect time, because it’s the right dose of athleticism without over-exertion.

What is your involvement in the Jacksonville Kickball Open?

I am the Event Manager and Kickball365 representative for the coed and women’s event, as well as the footgolf tournament. I’m also a player on the coed side and a captain/coach of a women’s team. (Next JKO is May 16, 2015)

How many years have you done JKO?

This is the 4th annual JKO event for coed, and second annual for women’s. It’s the inaugural footgolf event. JKO was added in the second full year of The Circuit.

What do you think makes The Circuit unique in kickball tournaments?

The Circuit is unique because it combines the highest level of competitive kickball social events filled with friends you only get to visit with once in a while. In an average sized tournament of about 20 teams, more than half are traveling from out of town, and friendships across the country are forged in one glorious weekend. People always go home exhausted after a Circuit Event.

About how many Circuit tournaments have you played in?

I would say I have played in about 30 circuit tournaments over the course of 5 years.

Your team recently won the Circuit Championship Weekend of the National Tour?

Yes, my travel team, The Situation, went to San Antonio in November of 2014 and battled what was historically the toughest field of kickball teams ever assembled. We ended up beating another great team in the finals.

What do you think it was about your team that enabled you to win the finals?

From a strategic standpoint, our team takes on a different approach from most other top teams. We have a large amount of what I would consider “specialist” players. With that comes a larger roster than most, but everyone bought into the team concept. Our depth and each player’s ability to do their job when called upon is what lead us to victory. We are also one of the few teams who are lead by a non-playing captain. It’s unconventional in the kickball world but I am a believer that the captain’s role is extremely difficult to be successful at as the day wears on, and I would prefer a non-playing captain any day.

From a non-strategic view, our team just picked each other up whenever someone was down. Players ride hot and cold streaks in kickball just like any other sport, but the support from your teammates helps you battle through those times, and is what makes finally achieving your goal such a great feeling.

What is your involvement in LASER?

With LASER, I am the social sports league director.

What makes LASER different than WAKA, besides the lower price?

LASER is run by the people who play social sports locally. Prior to the formation of LASER, we have each put in countless hours of volunteer time to grow kickball in Jacksonville, and we feel as though we are the most in tune with what players want and expect from this service we provide.

Any difference in rules from the normal WAKA rules?

We play with one less player in the field, so that the “coed ratio” becomes closer to even. We also play with a different, better quality ball which, at first glance may not seem all that important, but it makes a big difference. Additionally, we require smaller rosters so that each individual member can have more opportunity for playing time and at-kicks. There are other smaller variations, such as one less foul in the count and different rules for encroachment and what constitutes fair or foul, etc…

Same ball as is used in Kickball365 Circuit Events?

Yes, same ball.

How new player friendly will LASER be?

For a new player joining, this is an ideal way to get started. Many of the local players and teams are doing their part to help “the people’s league” (as we jokingly call it) grow, as it positively impacts the entire community to cultivate a successful league. Any new player can expect exemplary customer service, the best after party social scenes in Jacksonville, and a more educational experience in terms of kickball strategy. In the larger, more established leagues, the gap in talent has risen significantly to the point where newer teams struggle to find fun before the pressure is on to figure out a strategy to keep them competitive. Personally, I will be coaching a team of mostly new players in an effort to enhance their experience as a first time kickballer.

For a new captain coming into kickball, or for example, your new team in LASER. What do you consider the fundamentals for scoring and the fundamentals for defense.

Well, on offense, baserunning is a huge key. Additionally, I always attempt to convince them that bunting, however “unfun” it may seem, is a key against more experienced players.

The toughest challenge with newer players on offense is also convincing them to “do the right thing”. If a situation calls for a bunt, it’s tempting to kick if you “see a hole” but kicks are caught far more often than they are landed.

Defensively, situational awareness is something that is most important, but only comes with experience. Veteran players mingling with newbies have to keep that in mind and practice patience. Knowing where to throw the ball once you field it, and backing up throws to certain bases are very fundamental practices and always a good place to start.

One thing we always say in travel, which I believe applies as soon as you step onto a kickball field, is to always throw to the next base of the lead runner. Trying to peg runners usually leads to disastrous outcomes.

What is your strategy when setting up your kicking order?

  1. Faster male, one of the best bunters
  2. Also fast, strong bunting male
  3. Accurate bunter, hopefully good speed, and it’s a huge plus if this player can kick line drives as well. If it’s a small lineup, this may be a female, otherwise most likely it’s a male.
  4. Another flexible kicker who is a capable bunter. More often than not, this player should be highly skilled at line drives more so than deep kicking
  5. This is, in my opinion, the actual “cleanup” spot in a lineup.
  6. Another strong kicker to provide protection for your cleanup kicker

From here on out, you want to try and sprinkle in players who are well-rounded offensively. It’s impossible to predict which role they will have to perform when it’s their turn, so flexibility is key.

For a team captain with an average team, say a 50% win / loss ratio, what general tips would you give them to practice with his team to bring them to the next level.

If a team is right on the cusp of breaking through to a winning record, I can almost assure you their offensive precision can bridge that gap. There is a large difference when playing skilled teams between a bunt 12 inches off the line, and 36 inches.

Bunting, bunting, and more bunting.

Anything additional about kickball that you want to say?

I would say that if we were reaching say … a non kickballer trying to figure out what it’s all about, and if it’s worth their time to get involved, to give it a shot. There aren’t many low-risk sporting opportunities that promote the social aspect as the main ingredient. Kickball is just our excuse to get out there and meet people. I can promise that anyone who gives it an honest try won’t be disappointed.

And finally, what would you consider your best kickball moment up till now?

My best kickball moment is probably when my travel team came to JKO 2013 and I was able to win the tournament in front of the home crowd. There were 30-40 friends on the sidelines giving myself and another couple local friends who were on the team a hard time, but it was a great feeling amidst a weekend full of stress from running a 300 person event. (I was actually at this tournament, it was a fun game to watch)

Thanks for your time Jimmy!

Done something amazing in kickball? I would love to have your story. Contact me if you have something to talk about.

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