Just yesterday news broke that one of the players I had the opportunity to coach some years ago has been hired to replace the coach that replaced me.
I am finishing my 14th year of teaching and continue to find a love for education each and every day I enter school. This weekend I will attend the wedding of a former student who I had the opportunity to coach in basketball for four years. This wedding marks the second of four weddings I am honored to attend this spring and summer of former students and basketball players. All four of these young ladies have grown to be successful adults. One is a psychologist in Ohio, one and engineer in Wisconsin, one is a special-education teacher in Wisconsin, and another has a business degree with a great job with an insurance company in Wisconsin. I am proud of all of these young ladies.
Two years ago I resigned from the high school girls basketball head coaching position I held for 10 years. I had prided myself on developing basketball skills but also fostering leadership, character, teamwork, honor, and sacrifice. Nevertheless, I was told that such a holistic approach to coaching might fit better in a middle school than a high school setting. The whirlwind of conflict galvanized my belief that as educators, parents, and coaches we have to go beyond the scoreboard to build much needed life skills to make our student athletes viable, resilient, and successful in their future pursuits.
Over the duration of the last two years, the basketball program remained competitive but never met or exceeded expectations. While my resignation was voluntary, the circumstances surrounding it left me little choice. I felt as though I was being pushed off a cliff by people I thought I could trust and by people I considered friends at one time. I am a much happier person today than I was then, but the way it ended left a bitter taste in my mouth. Those that were pushing for my resignation probably like to believe that they were doing me a favor. Well, yes, I am happy and love every facet of my life, but the successes that the teams I coached achieved over the course of ten years was remarkable. When I think back, I know I was a good coach and earned the respect of many, the most important to me were the athletes I coached.
In the last two years several wonderful events have happened in my life:
- My marriage is better than it ever has been. Desiree and I have been able to spend more time together and share a friendship that we (I) never took time to nurture.
- I now have more time to spend with my oldest two children, Brooklyn and Dawson, coaching their youth sports teams, camping, participating in winter sports, and sharing spirituality with them.
- I have written and published a book, Beyond the Scoreboard, by Mill City Press that will be released this summer. The book is a philosophical look at the impact, positive and negative, of high school athletics. I attempt to highlight the misaligned values of high school athletics to re-focus our purpose for extra-curricular activities.
- Faith and Hope, our new additions to the family were brought into our lives this past Fall. It was a spiritual journey Desiree and I were on throughout the entire high-risk pregnancy. Both Faith and Hope have ignited a new degree of love in our family.
- Finally, just yesterday, a former student-athlete I had the privilege to coach has been hired to replace the varsity basketball coach that replaced me. I couldn’t be happier for Casey Leisgang, a young lady that has grown in maturity and is on a spring board for a successful run as a coach. Casey had an outstanding career as a college softball player at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She will be a positive role model for young high school female athletes and she will prepare her team to be competitive while teaching them life lessons. I am proud of Casey, as I am proud of all of the players I have had the opportunity to coach. I may even be inspired to attend games once again to support Casey in her new endeavor. I wish her all the best.
The new beginnings in my life have been a gift from God. Yes, I was pushed off a cliff two years ago. I was in the depths of a valley so low that I couldn’t even see the light of day. I looked at the daunting task of climbing that rocky crag once again and wanted to just give up. However, with the help of Desiree and other great people, I have climbed back to the ridge of that cliff and have found even higher ground.