I wish every sports season finished with players hoisting the championship trophy, knowing the very last contest proved they were the very best team for that brief but lasting moment in history.
I was part of a National Championship football team over 30 years ago, and I still remember the feeling when the clock counted down to zero and we cheered knowing that for this time, in this place, for this moment, we would be recognized as the very best.
The experience should have had a happy ending but as we prepared for what would be my final season with the team, many things had changed. I did some growing up and through the changes realized that being successful wasn’t always enough to sustain a program or keep a team together.
What I remember most about my experiences as a player were the coaches who were dedicated to helping me play to a level I never though possible. Coaches who were courageous enough to be honest with me, were consistent in their expectations and wavered very little from the principles they exemplified.
When I entered the coaching profession over 20 years ago, I expected all of the politics and drama that go along with being involved in the lives of young people. I was realistic about the debilitating limitations many young people (and old alike) place on themselves. I embraced the fact that winning feels great and losing is a painful fact of life.
I heard every single one of my coaches say it in one way or another and it echoes across all these years. “In your life, no matter the outcome of the contest, how will you be remembered? How will your story be written? What principles did you live by and act upon? In a world filled with people who criticize and destroy, what will you build? How will you finish? How will you honor the game that has given you so many opportunities?”
And that’s how I coach.