A grounder sailed past me and just kept skipping over the freshly mowed grass like a rock on a iced over lake. I took one look at how far away that ball went and yelled, “Dammit!”
Immediately he looked at me and said, “Kelly, start running.”
Running, to my over zealous coach in his first year, meant only that you had to go run around the goal post on the nearby football field. That post might as well have been ten miles away that day. While I was taking my punishment, I remember thinking two things, 1. I dislike this punk kid that hit a stupid fast ball at my face that I missed, and 2. If my car was parked anywhere close to that goal post I’d get in it and go home.
17 seasons he coached softball, and I’m sure there’s a story inside every head of every girl he coached. I’m not unlike over 100+ highschoolers in that regard. He was a stellar coach leading his team to countless victory after victory year after year.
Some where in those 17 seasons he began also coaching a different sport in this little town in north Iowa. He would work relentlessly to develop skills in girls as early as 4th grade. Building a legacy takes patience and persistence, and God gave this man an extra abundance of both.
25 season of volleyball later he has not wavered from his love of the sport, but I bet if you ask him he will tell you he loves his girls more now. He doesn’t take for granted the fact that year after year he has a team that gives all they can to win, on and off the court. I have seen his protecting glances, his encouraging hugs, his fist pumps and his “you can do better than that” smirks over and over again through the lens of my camera this year with one goal in mind. This post. A post where I get to put words to my feelings about a punk kid coach from the 90s whose passion for a sport is still changing lives now.
My daughter has the honor of being the first second generation girl he’s coached and the lessons I’m sure she’s learned from him far outweigh what I learned. Experience does that. It gives you a toolbox to reach into and pull out the proper thing to say, do, or even give a person in any situation. That’s why, when the girls lost their game to berth a state tournament trip, and the first loss all year, I knew he would have the right tools to give them to lose well. Yes, it hurts to lose and this coach hates it with every pore in his body, but if anyone can lead through any situation it’s him.
17 seasons of softball.
25 seasons of volleyball.
42 seasons of lessons and stories.
42 seasons of friendships made.
42 seasons of unsolicited parental feedback.
42 seasons of talking volleyball over dinner with his family.
42 seasons of unwavering passion.
42 seasons of endings.
I must have ran long enough in that sweltering heat to lose ten pounds that day, and when I was done coach never said anything else about my explosive expletive. Which of course kinda miffed me at the time, but that’s his way I know now. Learn the lesson and move on. Keep on doing the small stuff and one day you’ll have a handful of memories that don’t include a win/lose record.
I quite frankly don’t know if he’ll coach another five or twenty more years, but I do know he will show up with his laces tight, clipboard in hand and not let anyone who plays on one of his teams get away with slacking or swearing. Unless, I am told, you are the setter and show up with socks that read “Master of the Shit Show.” Then, he’ll laugh and get on with practice.