All the times and accomplishments fade. What you remember most are the relationships you made along the journey, hands down. Cherish them.
I've coached many champions and championship teams. After a couple of years, those significant 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 go, even though it's a necessary loss.
When I run, at times, the ache of the past surfaces at a
local track or a race. Something triggers a memory of people I've coached in
the past. Suddenly, my thoughts focus on the memory of a person I coached
Ask my wife; I have this uncanny gift for remembering 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 athletes' times and past performances for long. The best thing about their times is the memories triggered by 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, a person who lost well over 100 pounds through sheer determination and faith through running served as a sort of teacher.
I think about the model this person set for me and how I was taught from that experience never to limit the human spirit. Seeing this person's struggles and overcoming nature changed me and how I coached. This relationship and a couple of similar stories taught me never to give up on someone unless they genuinely want to walk away.
I think about the young man whose extreme passion for running since a young age rekindled my desire to coach again, help others, and believe that running can forever change a life for the better. His story gave me hope that maybe I could help others again.
I think about the brothers and sisters on past teams and how they supported each other in their unique ways. To see sibling relationships in action is a true blessing. There is something extraordinary about coaching kids from the same family.
I remember the letters from kids or their parents about how running helped reduce or mitigate depression, ADD, ADHD, or other areas of emotional distress. The struggles these kids overcame, and their grit and perseverance will always live in my heart. The relationships with these kids were priceless.
I think about the tears from some I've coached who said, " I 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 nature in others.
I often think back to how much my daughter had to overcome in her journey. I see playgrounds, tracks, and trails where she ran, which triggers memories of overcoming her life challenges. Tears fill my eyes when I am alone just thinking about it.
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 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. Give thanks always for one of God's greatest gifts—each other. Cherish the times you have with people through each chapter of life.