Everyone Needs a Coach
I will never forget the memory of standing at the altar, on my wedding day, and anxiously waiting to see Alia, my soon-to-be wife. The sanctuary was packed with family, friends, and colleagues. There was happiness and anticipation in the air. I was excited, but I was nervous. I was about to start a new life with the love of my life.
I became fully aware of my heart beating against my ribs in my chest, my breathing began to shorten, and sweat formed on the back of my neck. I looked to my left and could see my dad, my best man, standing next to me. Daryl, my brother-in-law, was standing next to him. I looked over at Jack, my best friend standing tall and smiling, in spite of being up there with me in crutches. Then, my eyes found my high school cross-country coach, Coach Courter.
Fourteen years earlier, Coach Courter came into my life like a wild brush fire, when I officially met him on a hot summer day. I was a bright eyed fourteen year old kid about to start my high school running career. I was intimidated by him, but I was excited to be coached by him and hopefully, with his guidance, find out how fast I could get as a high school varsity runner.
I heard the stories about Coach Courter and I witnessed it firsthand. Coach was passionate and intense. He coached with fire and demanded excellence from his athletes. His passion was contagious and his unwavering belief in me gave me confidence. By my sophomore year, I was already one of the top runners in the state. When I graduated from Anderson High School, I amassed an impressive resume with seven conference titles, seven state finals appearances, and a 2nd and 3rd place finish in the state championships. Most important, I gained acceptance into the United States Military Academy at West Point, based on my running ability.
In the beginning, I ran for Coach Courter out of fear, but by the time I ran my final race as a high school athlete, I ran for him out of love. Coach elevated me throughout my high school career and helped me discover the full depths of my athletic talents, but he also helped me discover what type of person I wanted to be in my life.
High school can be a confusing time for a young person. It is a time of discovery and a fluid experience for every young adult. For me, Coach became a foundation that allowed me to figure out my future. He provided structure and predictability during a critical point in my life, but most of all, he gave me the courage to strive for my best. He started as my coach, but by the end of my high school career, he was my friend.
I’ve learned to appreciate that my need for coaching did not cease when my formal running career ended. Coach Courter remained a positive presence in my life ever since we first met, so many years ago. When I struggled at West Point, Coach jumped in a car, with my dad, and drove twelve hours through the night so he could encourage me to stick it out. He wrapped his arm around my neck and wept with me when my sister died. We’ve laughed together, celebrated together, and mourned together. We’ve experienced life together.
He never stopped coaching me over the years, and I’m a better man for it. Coach Courter continues to be a rock in my life and a positive influence. I’ve leaned on him throughout the years and continue to look to him for inspiration and guidance.
I’m blessed to have a coach that understands me and believes in me, but what about you? Everyone needs a coach, an individual that has your best interests in mind and is willing to mentor you on life issues. I cannot count the times I leaned on principles Coach taught me over the years. The foundation he gave me in high school was critical, but it is his continual presence that gives me the confidence to be the man I need to be for myself and my family. If you don’t have a coach in your life, find one. Find someone that you look up to and has the life experiences you can draw from and that will be willing to mentor you through the obstacles along the way.
My heart slowed and I became calm when I looked over at Coach on my wedding day. When our eyes met, he smiled and winked at me. And as he did so many times before, he inspired me to toe the starting line, except this time it was the starting line of what would become the greatest race of my life. Thanks Coach!