I had the great fortune this weekend to spend all day Saturday with my college tennis coach and some former teammates in Charlotte. The reason we were all there was to commemorate the new tennis facility – its amazing – and dedicate it to coach.
I was personally there for two reasons. The first is that I look for any and every opportunity to make sure that coach knows how important he was – and is – to my life. I’ve written about this before, like the time he took off his shirt in the freezing cold, but the man has taught me so much and impacted who I am so greatly that I try to go out of my way to make sure he knows that.
The second reason is that when I was in my first year of college I chose to play in a weekend tournament instead of attending a young person’s church confirmation. He had chosen me to be his confirmation sponsor and clearly looked up to me (I was probably four years his elder and we trained at the same tennis academy). And I cared deeply about this friend and was blown away and humbled when he had chosen me. We had what now I clearly see was a meaningless tennis tournament that weekend and I apologized to him that timing didn’t work out for me to come back to Atlanta to attend his confirmation. I’ve regretted that decision ever since and given that I don’t even recall where that tournament was or how I did, it obviously wasn’t very important in the grand scheme of life. I think about that all the time and wish I could go back and make the right decision.
Ever since then I’ve tried like heck to be at events where my friends or family are having a “big moment”. Even when its really difficult or expensive, I do my best to get there because I don’t want to feel that regret. And I want to be there for them.
Case in point, when I got married in June of 2000, my coach had to be in Charlotte the next morning so he drove four hours to my wedding on that Saturday, attended my wedding and stayed until we left, then drove four hours back to Charlotte. It would have been so easy for him to send me a note and I would have completely understood. In fact, many people did. But as usual, he made the right decision and in the process, taught me yet another life lesson.
Several of my teammates were not able to come this weekend, mostly because they live in other countries or had serious commitments that they could not get out of. But they all got together and made a video expressing their appreciation for coach and what he meant to their lives. I have to think his influence made them even think to do such a thing.
The next day we met up with a few of the other players for breakfast before we headed back to Atlanta. I asked what they did that night after we went back to the room around 10:30pm. They said they went downtown for a little while and when I asked how they got there, because I knew their wives were already downtown and they didn’t have a car, plus – cough, cough – its possible they had a little alcohol, they replied with the only logical answer – coach drove us.
Thanks coach, for everything. I can only hope that one day my children are able to have someone like you in their lives.
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