All the times and accomplishments fade. What you remember
most are the relationships you made along the journey, hands down. Cherish them.
I’ve been blessed to coach many champions and championship teams. After a couple of years, the memory of those big victories fade away. Each group you coach and connect with moves on to other chapters and pursuits in life. The next group comes in and you start all over again. The once vibrant and everyday relationships you had become part of history.
Yes, I miss each group. And no, I never get used to people leaving as they move to new chapters of life. It hurts to see people you’ve helped and cared about for years leave, even though it’s a necessary loss.
The ache of the past surfaces at times when I am out on a run, at a local track, or at a race. Something triggers a memory of people I’ve coached in the past. My thoughts all of a sudden are fully captured by the memory of a person that I coached long ago.
Ask my wife, I have this uncanny gift to remember the people I’ve coached down to their times and places 20 or even 30 years ago. I don’t forget easily.
My thoughts don't stay on the athlete's times and past performances for very long. The best thing about their times is the memories that are triggered about their personality, how much they had to overcome to reach their goals, and what an inspiration that person was to me and others. I think about each person I've coached and what I've learned from them.
You would think that it would be the other way around, right? A coach is a teacher, many times a teacher of life skills. What, the student is the teacher? Yes, the student is the teacher many times.
For example, there was that person who lost well over 100 pounds through sheer determination and faith through running. I think about the example this person set to me and how I was taught from that experience to never limit the human spirit. To see the struggles and overcoming nature of this person changed me and how I coached. This relationship and a couple of other similar stories taught me never to give up on a person unless they truly want to walk away.
I think about the young man whose extreme passion for running since a young age rekindled my own desire to coach again, to help others, and to believe again that running can change a life for the better, forever. His story gave me hope that maybe I could help others again.
I think about the brothers and sisters I’ve had on teams in the past and how they loved and supported each other in their own unique ways. To see sibling relationships in action is a true blessing. There is something incredibly special about coaching kids from the same family.
I remember the letters received from kids or their parents about how running helped reduce or mitigate depression, ADD, ADHD, or other areas in the emotional realm. The struggles these kids overcame and their grit and perseverance will always live in my memory. The relationships with these kids were priceless.
I think about the tears from some I’ve coached who said, " I just can’t do this coach. I just can’t! Yes, you can, I say. Then, through faith, belief, and picking themselves up after they fall, they do it! The best of the human spirit wins again. New confidence is born. I love seeing the overcoming spirit in others.
Many times, I think back to how much my own daughter had to overcome in her journey. I see playgrounds, tracks, and trails where she ran that triggers memories about how hard she worked to overcome her challenges in life. Tears fill my eyes when I am alone just thinking about it at times.
And finally, I think about some kids I've coached in the past whose faith in God is so strong, I say to myself, "I want to be just like her/him when I grow up!".
You see, it’s not the times and performances that stay deeply embedded in the coach’s heart. It’s the relationships and positive life changes you see in others along the journey, the overcoming of the human spirit, and the good you see in people that you remember most.
Perhaps my friend, former United States Collegiate Heptathlon Champion Patsy Walker Pointer said it best: "The relationships gained throughout the world, that still stand today, are the greatest treasures that came out of it all".
Patsy's words resonate with me because they are so very true.
Photo Credit: Mrs. Deutscher
Photo Credit: Mrs. Perez
Photo Credit: Mike Sellars
Photo Credit: The Zepeda Family Photo
Photo Credit: Mrs. Davis
Photo credit: The Sowers Family
Photo Credit: Carl Chase