She Cried Like A Baby When Her Coach Said This.
Story by Lynn M. Lombard
At Akron High School, I was heavily involved in Cross Country and Track, both of which were coached by one very special man. At times, I found myself lacking the confidence I needed to reach my goals. But with the help of my coach, I was able to bring them closer. I’ll always remember the day I saw him for the wonderful, thoughtful man he is. At a practice that was personally disappointing, he helped me in a way I’ll never forget.
“Are you all right, Lynn?” he came up to me after my run around the track.
“I’m fine,” I said, discouraged.
“Come on, Lynn. I know you better than that,” he remarked. My eyes began to water and the tears came as easily as a little baby’s wail. In the gymnasium, we sat and talked for what seemed like hours. His solid advice is something I reflect upon often.
“Trying your best and continuing to work hard is all anyone can expect from you, including yourself. Giving up cannot be part of your vocabulary. I believe you can do it. Now you have to believe it yourself.” And when I pointed out my weaknesses, he boasted about my strengths. Our next track meet showed me running a great 400 and as I passed the finish line, I saw the look on his face that said, “I told you so.” I felt a new confidence in myself that day. He had a way of making me see the best in myself. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
It was two years ago that I last saw him. As we pass the horse crossing sign and see the sky-blue lake to the right of us, we know we are very close. My heart beats fast with excitement as I read the street signs off one by one to myself. As soon as my husband turns onto the rocky dirt road, his big colonial house beams at us. White, with hunter-greenshutters and a gray and black roof, it stands there like a mother to the many other small cottages around it.
Moments later, we stood at his front door and rang the bell. With a smile, I walk up the steps and into my coach’s arms for the hug hello we always share.
“What’s this?” he asks, seeing the big basket in my hands. “It’s just like you to do something like this,” he comments, looking at the chocolates, coffees and candles inside. While he makes a fuss over my kindness, I noticed he’s still slim, yet muscular as if his daily running habit had not been broken. The gray in his hair seems no more so than the last time we saw one another. He had always aged well, I thought.
“Are you still writing?” he asks me as we sit down and begin what would turn into a lengthy talk. It felt great giving him an answer I knew he would be proud of. He told me long ago that I had a talent he had hoped I wouldn’t give up on. He should have known me better than that since he was the one who taught me about not giving up. It didn’t surprise me that he wouldn’t take credit for that. He never did. He always taught me through his own example. I dearly admired that about him.
After catching up on our current lives, he takes us for a short tour of his new surroundings. Outside, we walk on the old, yet stable dock overstepping the fidgety lake. The wind blows through our already messed hair, and I can’t help but smile as I stand there. I look out into the forever blue water and suddenly feel very small in comparison. The choppiness of it makes semi-waves as it rushes up to the rocky shore. Nearby, a fisherman in his boat strolls past on a journey to catch the evening’s dinner. The fresh air takes me back to high school, training in track practice. Running the long stretches of blacktops and the numerous hills to get in shape was tough. My coach, always there beside me, kept me going. He never once let me quit or fall behind. Running circles around me making jokes, he’d try in any way to crack a smile on my exhausted face. Never succeeding, he’d think I was angry at him for making me work so hard. Little did he know that inside I was smiling and appreciating him more than ever.
As the afternoon proceeds, my coach and his wife take us for a drive around the lake in their navy-blue Chevy Blazer. We pull in front of a Carvel shop and my face lights up. “Come on, I’ll buy you an ice cream,” he says to us. Like a little kid, I quickly work my way down to the cone that surrounds the chocolate-vanilla crunch ice cream I chose. We finish our treats in the truck on the way back to his house.
After dinner and more friendly chatter, the day quickly draws into night as we watch the sun set; red, orange, and blue mixing together to accent it’s beauty. Regretful that the day is over, we walk outside into the cool night air.
“It was great seeing you,” my coach remarks.
“Thanks for the invite,” I say, hugging him, breathing in the familiar scent of his cologne.
“You’re welcome here anytime.” And I knew that we were.
The two hour drive back is relaxing. I pondered the many memories of our time together, and smile knowing I had added one more to the stack that filled my mind. I know there will be more visits and more laughs between the two of us. And that makes the future look brighter. My coach always did have a way of doing that.