AllStarCoverMany say that the only constant in life is change and many of us agree with that statement. There certainly are a lot of changes in our lives and in the world. The awareness of constant change is one of the reasons for this book. My wife Jane and I, Jack, want to show you a path you can follow to successfully navigate the ocean of changes coming your way.

We saw a greeting card once that had an interesting message. The cover had a person wearing large dark glasses and the caption read “LOVE IS BLIND.” Inside it said, “BUT MARRIAGE IS DEFINITELY AN EYE OPENER.” How true. How true. For some of us it is more of an eye opener than we realized. What caused that? Change.

In this book we use baseball teams as an analogy for what happens between couples in marriage because baseball players practice to keep their skills sharp and to improve them. This is exactly what married couples should do to keep their marriage strong and healthy. We hope you enjoy baseball or softball, either as a participant or a spectator. But if you don’t, we hope you can still see the connection. As you go through the program outlined in this book, we suggest that you see yourself in a training camp. There to help guide you and give you helpful tips are your manager, Rudy, and coaches Gabriel and Lou. One goal of this All-Star Marriage Training Camp is to prepare you to weather change and keep your marriage on a steady course.

The phrase “Practice makes perfect” certainly applies here. The All-Star Marriage Training Camp will lay out an orderly path for you and your spouse to live the married life of your dreams. Good luck and hang in there. You’ll be glad you did.

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A little over a year ago I got a call from Jack Katenkamp, a friend of a mutual friend, asking me for help preparing for press a book he was writing. He explained that he and his wife Jane spent many years as leaders of marriage encounter groups as diverse as those sponsored by church groups and those held in prisons with either husbands or wives and their incarcerated spouses. They heard so many stories about struggles in marriages that they knew they had to tell some of those stories to form a basis for helping other couples with their difficulties. Jack put forth the baseball format because he was struck by the similarities between what makes a great marriage team and what makes a great baseball team, such as team members helping each other improve and work together in harmony. He also wanted the challenges presented to be seen as a contest between good and evil or, on a more secular level, between happiness and unhappiness.

This program is designed to present to couples participating in the program ten narratives (innings) of life’s struggles and possible solutions. The situations are pretty representative of difficulties couples face at one time or another in their relationships. The focus in each inning is on how a couple becomes an “all-star couple” by setting aside individual wants to focus on the good of the team. When this happens, couples invariably cooperate together for a common goal, help each other improve and praise each other rather than criticize, learn from their mistakes and look forward to trying new things, and most important, they learn to forgive each other when things do not work out as well as expected. The “score card for scouting report” allows the participating couples to change the line-up (the topic problem and the approach to solve it) and the team roster (the specific points of conflict and the specific solutions) and thus to customize the presentation to meet their exact needs. And if the couple goes through all ten innings and still has a situation they want to work on, they can take the game into extra innings. The couple can use the line-up and the team roster approach to focus on any situation and the key elements to define it, and then they can take the steps needed to focus on the solution.

Jack approached me for help because I had experience as a book editor and speech and written communication instructor, and he thought I could improve his and Jane’s presentation of the stories. However, Jack and Jane knew exactly what they wanted to say. All that was left for me was to move some commas around and spell-check the copy. But my edit process did give me the opportunity to closely read the material, to share the experiences in the book with my wife of over forty years, to compare those experiences to what we have experienced in our time together, and to discuss a few adjustments that we are working on to make our future better. If this book can help “team mates” of 40 years find better ways to work out our difficulties, I am left with the feeling that it can help anyone.

Daniel Van