Friday, March 1, 2013

Gifts from a Coach

Gifts from a Coach
For: Coach Baker, Coach Easterling, and Coach Calhoun…
My childhood and high school years were largely centered on the game of basketball; watching, playing, coaching, learning, practicing…or dreaming about basketball.  I loved it…still do…and I always looked up to my coaches.
When I was a senior, our head coach, Charles Baker, now retired and in the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, brought a gift to our house.  It was a beautifully framed still life print, full of authentic memorabilia of Kentucky Life:
a Kentucky Derby Trophy (Proud Carrion's), Derby roses, a mint julep in a traditional silver julep cup; jockey racing silks, cap, whip, saddle and a fox horn to represent horse country, a U.K. basketball and jersey (Ron Mercer's); the first printing of the state song, "My Old Kentucky Home" by Stephen Foster; the state tree and flower; a "hand" of tobacco: a decanter of Bourbon; lumps of coal; a flintlock pistol; arrowheads and a buckskin jacket to represent Daniel Boone, pioneers, and native Kentuckians; and a banjo for our world renown "Bluegrass" music.
Earlier, in my high school days, I had seen this print in his office, and I commented on how cool it was…months later, Coach gave it to me as a graduation gift.
My grandfather went to all of my high school (and Junior High, for that matter) basketball games, sat on the front row, and cheered us on…win or lose, we always knew he was there.  My sophomore year at Florida Southern College, my grandfather, Nick DeSantis (PopPop), went home to Heaven.  I flew home to Kentucky, of course for the funeral, to be with my family. 
In addition to visiting with our family, Coach Baker sent a special gift, addressed to me – it was a white, wooden and ordinary looking clock…but the message Coach sent was extraordinary.  He knew of my close relationship with PopPop, and he knew how tough this life event would be for me.  The card simply read, “It just takes time…” He later explained more to me, in person, how it will get easier...with time...and to hang in there and be strong for my mom, aunt, uncle, and my grandmother. 
When I saw Coach at the funeral home, he came up, gave me a huge hug, and told me all about how PopPop had been a loyal East Carter Raider basketball fan long before I came along.  We shared some laughs with several folks gathered around, told stories of PopPop, and Coach stayed, visiting with my family for hours during that tough time.
Since leaving my hometown to pursue my college education and a career in hospitality, I’ve lived in Lakeland, FL, Orlando, FL, Ithaca, NY, Las Vegas, NV, Miami, FL, Orlando, FL (again), and then Las Vegas, NV (again).  The “Kentucky Legacy” print and the white clock are both proudly displayed in my living room, today, and I’ve kept them on display, with every move I’ve made, for the past 16 years.
I tell this story because it’s a great metaphor for both the opportunity and gift of COACHING.  The clock and the beautiful Kentucky Legacy print were tangible gifts.  Coach Baker, Coach Easterling, and Coach Calhoun, during my high school years, also gave me countless intangible gifts, as they taught, illustrated, encouraged, and pushed me, almost daily; to strive for excellence…they coached.
As March Madness approaches, I can’t help but reflect on the many gifts my coaches have passed along to so many East Carter Raiders and Lady Raiders over the years. 
The gifts of their coaching all those years ago are now relevant in life, and they still guide me today in business:
“Fight through it…”Coach E.
Be around the ball…” – Coach Baker
Play smarter, not harder…” – Coach Calhoun
Don’t get satisfied…stay focused on improving…”Coach E.
Get mentally tough…MTXE…”Coach Baker
Don’t think of yourself as a second class player…you belong here…” – Coach Baker
“Be confident…” – Coach Calhoun
Don’t get ‘flustrated’…slow down” – Coach E-ism
Knuckle down…and get after it” – Coach Baker-ism
Play hard…Have Fun…Listen to your coaches…” – East Carter Raider Basketball’s culture, driven home, every day, by our coaches.
For Leaders, Bosses, Teachers, Professors, Doctors, Lawyers, or actual coaches of teams…we should never underestimate the opportunity we have, to teach and coach.  We just never know how impactful and meaningful our words may be to the people on our teams and in our lives.
Never underestimate the gifts from a coach.  If delivered in the right ways, they last forever.
Have a great day.
One for the road:
Good luck to Coach E., and the Lady Raiders, as they take on the Lewis County Lady Lions in first round action of the 16th Regional Tournament, Saturday at Ellis T. Johnson Arena, in Morehead, KY.
Go Lady Raiders!   

Play hard. Have fun. Listen to your coaches...
#MTXE  (Mental Toughness eXtra Effort)

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