Thursday, March 27, 2014

25 years later I thanked a former coach

Today I made a phone call I've been meaning to make for a long time. Nearly two years ago I decided to contact one of my former high school coaches who made a big impact on my life. I searched online to try to find him and through a Facebook connection obtained his phone number. But then I didn't call right away.

But today I called. I hadn't talked with Coach Radford for nearly 25 years. I wasn't even sure he would remember me since he was only my coach for a short time and it was so long ago. He was the varsity basketball coach, but I wasn't a varsity player. Before I had the opportunity to play at that level, my family moved away, and I was playing for a different coach at a different school.

But in the short time I knew Coach Radford he really helped shape the direction of my life. When I decided to come out for the team, I wasn't in very good shape and wasn't a very good basketball player either. I remember in preseason conditioning I was ashamed at how badly the other boys just left me in the dust in the sprints. But Coach Radford didn't see me for what I was, he saw me for what I could become. He constantly encouraged me even though I was just a freshman kid who might not ever help his basketball program succeed. Had it not been for his uplifting words, I probably would've quit.

So I guess the thing I'm so grateful for is that he believed in me and made me feel like I could do it. And that small action made me want to coach and teach and help students succeed. As I considered different career possibilities, my memories of Coach were always very powerful in leading me to be a teacher.

And that's how it is for each of us who work with students. We don't know when a conversation or a situation might help spark in a student something lasting and worthwhile. It often doesn't take grand gestures and heroic interventions to make a difference. It simply means investing in students and taking a genuine interest in their life now and in the future.

I was amazed that Coach remembered me immediately. We chatted about life and our families, and I shared with him how much he meant to me. I thanked him.

And he was so gracious in return. Just like before, he made me feel worthy and successful. He said the phone call meant so much to him. He thanked me over and over.

It really is true that none of us has ever accomplished anything by ourselves. There have always been people who have supported us, encouraged us, and even pushed us toward success. Be sure to thank those people while you can. It's never a good idea to delay gratitude.
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