Tuesday, July 8, 2014

End of an Era

A couple of weeks ago, I coached for what possibly will be the last time. While I never say never, and there is always the possibility that may change, it looks like my thirty four year career as a coach has come to an end. There are a lot of memories, mostly good, that come to mind as I reflect on what has been a major part of my life.

It all began in college, where I worked with the goalkeepers on the soccer team. That was when I decided that I wanted to coach. The coaches I had during my playing days had a profound impact on my life, and I wanted to do the same thing for others.

After graduation, I took a position at a small Christian school as athletic director and teacher.During the next four years, I coached boys soccer, basketball, and track. I drove the bus, van, or whatever vehicle was available. We traveled all over the Washington/Baltimore area, and one year drove a group of students all the way to Idaho for competition. We played on city soccer fields, church gymns, and had some pretty successful teams, winning a number of tournaments. One of the soccer players led the entire county in scoring one year, and a couple of basketball players went on to play in college.

The next stop was Cincinnati, where I again served as athletic director and coached soccer, basketball, and track. During my nine years there, we made it to the soccer state finals once, and made it to the basketball final four four times in a row, winning back-to-back state championships. Those teams were among the best defensive teams in the Cincinnati area, and one player ranked among the top players in career points in the state of Ohio. A couple of the players went on to play at the next level, and one is a successful high school basketball coach. After leaving that school, I assisted in a NCAA Division 3 women's basketball program, where I got a small taste of the life of a college coach for one year. On that team, we had the number one player in three point shooting in the nation.

Our next stop was Rock Hill, South Carolina. There I coached a wider variety of sports. During the ten years there I coached boys and girls soccer, volleyball, girls basketball, and golf (really all I did is drive the golfers to matches and play behind them). While my teams were not as successful in terms of wins as some of the earlier teams, the athletes worked just as hard and were as much of a joy to coach. I also drove the bus, which gave me the opportunity to travel to Florida and Tennessee for tournaments. The best part was being able to coach both my son in golf, and my daughter in basketball. I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing that was to me. I had given up the search for a college job to be able to see them grow up, and being able to work with them and see them come to love sports like I do made it more than worth it. It's something I would never trade.

The past eight years I have assisted on middle school football and track teams, and been the head coach on softball and volleyball teams. My "claim to fame" is assisting on the 8th grade football team on which Jadeveon Clowney played. I have also had the privilege to coach high school girls basketball on a higher level. I have been the head junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach, working with one of the best coaches in the area. Those programs are the closest thing I could get to a college level job, and I thoroughly enjoy working with this individual. We had some good teams, making it to the SC AAAA Upper State championship one year. It is that program that I have said goodbye to as a coach.

It's a bittersweet thing. My evenings will be much more free, and the long hours won't wear me out. But, I know I will miss it. I have been blessed to be able to travel, to do something I loved for a long time, and to work with some fantastic people. If you are one of those who have spent some time with me, as a player or a fellow coach, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the ones that made it such a joy.


Wayward Son said...

Sounds like a significant life change for you, after a long run of fulfillment. Are you inclined to share why you're stopping? Is it simply retirement? Wishing you the best on this new leg of your journey.

Fred Shope said...

I left my job (sort of not completely my choice). That job allowed me to coach. At this point it's doubtful that whatever job I get will allow me the time to continue coaching. It has been a great fulfilling ride, and I will miss it. Thanks.

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