Friday, April 15, 2011

Thanks Coach!

Tomorrow my high school track coach is being honored at the Boulder Valley Invitational track meet as the honorary coach of the year.  Mrs. C. from Boulder High School, this is long overdue!  Mrs. C was assisted by her husband, Ron.  Our Track team was a combination of real athletes, average athletes, and wannabee athletes.  I am sure you can not guess which pile I am from.  For some kids, track was a fun thing to do after school and a fun thing to do on a Saturday to hang out with friends and look at the guys in short shorts.  For me, Track was a lifeline.  To me, Mr. and Mrs. C were lifesavers. 

I "ran" track my junior and senior year at Boulder High School.  My junior year I was arm-wrestled into coming out for track by a good friend.  I loved the camaraderie and  the Carlson's were awesome, hip and fun.  Little did I know that summer would change my life. 

My mother was battling cancer on and off while I was growing up.  She had always come through a winner, even though the battles seemed to get harder and harder.  I was the typical teenager.  Self-absorbed, whiny and felt like the entire world was on some secret mission to ruin my life.  I was talked into going to a track camp at Adams State College ( I have no idea why I would do such a silly thing) but actually was looking forward to it.  I was enjoying a Sunday dinner at home before heading out to Alamosa with friends.  When I got in the car to go, my Mom gave me a hug and told me she was headed to the hospital that afternoon as well.  "Just for some tests" she reassured me, and told me she would be home when I got back the next weekend.  She died a few days after I got home.  She never came back home. 

Mr. and Mrs. C were on their usual summer vacation to visit family in Dallas.  Mrs. C. had a Texas accent that came out when she was being sassy or super angry, other times she sounded like a regular gal from Colorado.  When you heard the accent you were either going to get teased or ripped.  It was like a fire alarm going off.  It was good to have. 

I spent the week busily preparing for my Mother's funeral.  It was a whirlwind and my mind was blank.  One evening after doing all the busy little things that were needed to be done, I came home to a card on the table, addressed to me.  Now mail had been coming on a regular basis after my Mom passed away.  Cards from people who knew her from one of her 500 volunteer activities, church, the Avon lady, the folks at the bank and even the doctor's office staff came every day, addressed to my Dad, or our family.  But this was addressed to me.  It was from Coach.  She took time from her vacation to get me a card, write in it and mail it to me.  She had no idea what that meant to me.  It helped me breathe when I could not breathe.  It reminded me I had a life still.  I had no idea what that life would look like, but I had one.  And, I had people who really cared about me. 

Spring forward to my Senior year.  School seemed mostly like an optional activity, something to do when the ski slopes were not at their peak, or the reservoir was closed.  Mrs. C., however, kept the thumb screws on. I ate dinner at their house,  I ran errands for them.  She threatened my life at times when necessary.  In fact, I recall an evening doing a project for English class with several people working along side of me to finish some poster-board art project.  I knew I had better get it done, Mrs. C was speaking "Texan" to me.  And she wasn't smiling.  I best get it done.

Mrs. C. wrote me in college.  She wrote me when I was a young married mommy with a bunch of little kids.  I would see her and come by and hang out at her pool.  She was with me in the room when my youngest son was born.  She stepped way outside of "high school track coach" and turned into a life coach, a mentor, a friend, and a mom. 

When I began coaching high school sports, I knew who I would coach like.  It was simple, I would follow the lead that Mrs. C showed me, without speaking Texan.  She taught me to pay it forward to the future generation.  She taught me that winning was important, but creating winning people was bigger and ultimately, of infinite value.  

Thanks Coach. You are amazing.  You are a dynamic woman who had molded the lives of thousands of young women who walked the halls of Boulder High and put on track cleats.  Tomorrow at the BVI's I will be so proud to stand next to you while they honor you for your work .  It's long overdue, and its not nearly enough, but it's something. 

You show us we all can make a difference, one random woman at a time!