I have just wrapped up my first season as an assistant coach for Team Palmetto, a select high school lacrosse program that takes high school age athletes from all over the state of South Carolina and pits them against other quality, select teams in the South. We played tournaments in Wilmington, Charlotte and Tampa. We placed first in our division in Wilmington and second in our divisions in both Charlotte and Tampa. All in all, a very good show for a very young program.
It was my very first year as a coach, ever. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
I believe in accountability, integrity, unselfishness, hard work, a strong foundation in fundamentals, and discipline when it comes to athletics. These virtues have served me well both on the field and in my personal life as well. It was my hope to pass along why I hold these things dear and why the 20-plus athletes I got to coach might find them helpful as well, both on the field and in their future endeavors. Did I succeed?
In that respect, I can only say this: I watched 20-plus teenagers catch glimpses of what it means to be a man of stature in life. I watched them slowly wrap their brains around patience, unselfishness, hard work, respect and honor. I watched them fall, I watched them get back up. I watched them sweat, I watched them hurt and I watched them smile. I watched them win, I watched them lose. I watched them listen, I watched them revert. I watched them learn. I watched them evolve. I watched them grasp character.
That’s all I wanted to be a part of: watching them learn, watching them evolve into men of character. If they have learned then they have not failed. If they have learned, then I have not failed. In life, their successes will be theirs and theirs alone. I cannot take credit for anything because success, and submission, are all personal choices. But it’s nice to think that, in some small way, maybe they learned something from me along the way that they might be able to call on when things get tough; when it looks like quitting is the only answer and quitting is the last thing they want to do. I may have coached for free, but the aforementioned is my payment.
I live in Hilton Head, South Carolina. During our last tournament, the Hilton Head parents of the 8 kids who made Team Palmetto were gathered in a hotel room and I went to drop off some paperwork. They asked me, with the head coach of the Hilton Head lacrosse team present, if I wouldn’t mind helping coach their children some more with the Hilton Head program come this spring. I was kind of taken aback. Can you imagine a parent trusting you with their kids development in the game and as a person like that so unanimously? I fell silent.
In a way it validated what I believed I was trying to do and, at the same time, it was very, very humbling. I take a request like that as a huge responsibility and am in no way sure that I am the man for such a job. I was kind of at a loss for words so I told them simply what I felt. I told them it would be an honor.
I made so many, many mistakes this year. So many. So, so many. But I learned from every one of them. I hope those athletes, those boys I saw begin their turn toward manhood, learned from their mistakes as well. That’s the point. If we learn then we have not failed.