A prosecutor sent me an e-mail telling me that she met the man who coached me in softball when I was growing up. When he saw her pull her assistant district attorney’s badge out of her wallet he said: ”You must know one of my girls Susan Criss.”

I immediately realized who she was talking about. I played softball for nine years. There were several really good men who coached the teams I played for. But there was only one ”Coach” and that was Walter Wilson.

I think about Coach Wilson frequently and about all that I learned from him. He taught me to love the strategy of the game.

The lessons were intended to make me a better ballplayer. I know I never became a great player or athlete. But Coach Wilson’s lessons about strategy made me a better trial lawyer.

Many times during trials I thought about the things he told us. I am sure he never imagined as he worked with us on the ball field that his theories would be tested in a courtroom.

The news stories about my trial victories never credited Coach Wilson. But his words were with me every time I walked into a courtroom.

During a time when female athletes were taken much less seriously than males Coach told us not to think of ourselves as ”girl” ballplayers. We were to consider ourselves as ballplayers period.

I have experienced very little discrimination based on being female in my career. One of the reasons for that is how I was taught to think of myself by Coach Wilson. I did not think of myself as a woman attorney but as a trial attorney. Others reacted to me based on how I saw myself.

Coach taught me how to confuse the other team by sending misleading signals. He had two sets of signals. He made a big production of touching the bill on his baseball cap as he coached from the first baseline. He had all kinds of theatrical moves.

He drove the opposition crazy with those signals. But they meant nothing. They were to distract the other team from seeing the real signals he sent to us when we were batting and on base.

The real signals were smaller and more subtle. I had to pay close attention not to miss the real signal. I learned not to telegraph my every move to the other side.

The most important thing I learned from my coach was: ”The mark of a good ball team is one that can come from behind to win.”

Many times when I felt I was behind in a trial I could hear his voice saying that as I sat at counsel table. And by believing that I could come from behind to win I did.

Coach Walter Wilson had a big impact on me long after I put away my ball and glove. He is a very special man and I am lucky to have been one of his girls. I love him dearly.

Susan Criss is the judge of the 212th District Court in Galveston.


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