Reflections From A Coach’s Funeral

I went to a funeral last week. I really do not like going to funerals. When I was 9-years-old, I was forced to go to an Uncle’s funeral that I did not know well. I thought he looked strange and fake, like some sort of wax museum statue. The budget kind of wax museum mind you.

But this was one funeral I looked forward to attending. Not because I was happy at the man’s death or did not like him. The man, Coach Troy, was my daughter’s softball coach for two years. Coach Troy, was not much older than me, but he had been living on and off with a cancer diagnosis for most of his adult life.

Coach Troy was not the best coach my daughter ever had. He was at a small public school with not much of a reputation for being good at anything, including sports. My daughter was a 7th and 8th grader when he coached her at the Varsity level for softball. My girl was a very good pitcher and his team really could use someone, even a middle schooler.

So I would take her to each practice and observe, as Coach Troy and his assistants ran the team through the drills. I noticed that there was often a notebook near him as he was working with the team.

You see, Coach Troy was also not a naturally great softball coach. He realized this and did not try to pretend otherwise. Instead, Coach Troy, would go to coaching clinics and take notes and bring those with him to put in place each practice. He would read his notes and relay the information on things like stance, shoulder position, first steps, etc to the girls during practices.

Coach Troy was not the best coach, but he did not have to be. Coach Troy was the one who showed up.

I learned, others had come and gone yearly as softball coach, but he had actually came back and I got to know him during his second season. He loved the game and he loved the girls. It was obvious from the first time I met him.

A bit of a miracle happened during my daughter’s two years playing for him. The team won their first ever section game and they also beat the larger cross-town rival school. The former was something even more cherished from the reactions I saw.

After middle school, my daughter attended a different high school and had to leave Coach Troy’s program. They played against each other for three years, before his death this past Winter. The cancer he had so often battled for years finally got him.

I took my family to Coach Troy’s funeral. And when it came for that dreaded time to look at him in the casket, I was not sure how I would react. From across the room, I saw he was not wearing a typical suit and tie you see men buried in. Nope. Coach Troy, was wearing his ‘Head Coach’ wind breaker. It made me smile. It made me cry. It made me realize what a successful coach is and is not…

For many people aspiring to be coaches online, they feel a need to be a well followed celebrity. More fans, more followers, more credentials, more accolades.

But, let me ask who had the bigger impact in your life? The mega-speaker at the seminar you went to and walked on glass afterwards? Or would it be someone who you sat at a kitchen table with as you grew up? Maybe it was a family member, a friend, or a teacher.

I would bet most everyone would answer, the more influential person in your own life was a person you had a relationship with.

As you seek to grow your coaching, you are going to be told and sold on being the celebrity model. After all, that is where the real money is right?

But, what if you could be the one, though not as well known, goes to conferences, takes notes, and comes back to impact as many lives as you can?

Will all those celebrity fans be at your funeral anyway? Would you care?

Or, will your funeral be full of people who you helped, even though you were not the celebrity. You were humble enough to seek the answers, the drills, the words and bring them back to teach your tribe.

I am not saying to not become famous, but to realize the importance of doing just what Coach Troy did…Be the one who shows up

Best
Sterling
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