Graduation day. As a head coach you know the day is coming and it’s the one day of the year that I personally go through conflicting feelings at the same time. It is a strange feeling that many cannot relate to but maybe a soon to be graduate feels similar emotions?
I feel both sadness at the end of an era from an amazing group of players and absolute pride and joy about the next chapters of both our lives. The graduating player begins a new journey of graduate work or a career and I get to hopefully enjoy a different kind of relationship as I hear stories of promotions, new jobs, engagements and much much more. If we both do the right thing we never say goodbye: we value the relationships and the connections we have formed and vow to stay in touch. Once a general, always a general.
As eight student-athletes walk across the stage tomorrow I will be both shedding a small tear and grinning from ear to ear with pride. Mixed emotions without doubt, but I know I have been truly blessed on this four year journey.
I thank you all for making me a better coach and allowing me to impart a little of my worldly knowledge on you as you embark on a fresh challenge. Only a fellow student athlete can fully understand and appreciate the effort, dedication and commitment you have poured into the program.
I will miss you all.
I thought I would share some of my favorite moments that may not mean much to people outside the program but they mean a great deal to me and hopefully to the players:
1. Bus trips: The singing back from the ODAC title from Virginia beach was amazing. Eating snacks, sleeping, doing homework, watching ‘Heavyweights” all great memories. Even leaving someone behind that was a tad late.
2. Nicknames: I love that we/I almost immediately give players nicknames that stick with them throughout their career. Even professors use K-Law as a name and does anyone know Deisher’s first name? I don’t know many teams that embrace this model like we do.
3. Locker Room Shenanigans: The decorating of the locker room has been a tradition for quite some time. Some are very creative, others are not: but Its one of my favorite moments to walk into the locker room on game day and see some fun and light hearted banter as we head to play a big game. Sometimes at the expense of a team mate, opponent or even the coaches. Love it!
4. Croquet Party: I love that we started this about 10 years ago as the beginning of our season as a team function and it never gets old. My wife makes amazing food, we all eat until we are stuffed and we then sharpen our competitive claws over a game of croquet. This sport used to be very gentile until the Generals adopted it. The race to win the gnome is the ultimate prize and the seniors often find a way to win it or steal it back anyway.
Help me find my car because it just got towed?
Give me a ride to the airport?
Show me how to use a grill?
Help me change a tire? ( or do it for me)
Come over to our house and catch a skunk?
Ask Susan for a quiche recipe?
And the list goes on and on and I like being that person you call.
6.PRACTICE! I love practice and I love seeing how hard the team works together for a common goal. I love when we set cones up and they try to guess what the activity will be. From the fear in their eyes when they see the circle of death to the joy in their faces when those goals go back to back baby!
7. Humor: The most underrated aspect of any program. Friendly name calling, laughing at each other when someone says something ridiculous, or falls over at practice. You have to be able to appreciate all brands of humor and it helps break the ice in many situations. I will miss these characters!
8. Parental support: Parents are not always supportive of all the things we do as coaches but I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed great support from this group of senior parents. A smile and congratulations after a big win, a warm smile or grimace and shake of the hand/hug after a tough loss, food no matter what the score or outcome of the game, breakfast on game day, food baskets, ham biscuits …the list goes on. The level of support has been overwhelming and very much appreciated.