Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thanks Coach Valentine

Dear Coach,

I really wanted to join the masses that have gathered to celebrate your accomplished and inspiring coaching career in-person today but nowadays I am living in Singapore and even though I sincerely wanted to be there with you to celebrate, traveling half-way around the world can sometimes have its challenges. I have instead sent along my Dad as a trusted representative and have asked him to pass this letter onto you.

First of all, Congratulations on managing the clock and playing all four quarters of your coaching career with the kind of intensity, passion, commitment, and focus in the same way that you always asked of us as players. I feel very fortunate that I was able to play on your team during one of these important quarters of your career. Your time at West Linn High School was no easy one to step into I am sure. Continuing the successful traditions of Ernie McKey and Larry Doty while carving out your own coaching identity would be a challenge. I guess in a way, you and I were both “Freshman” entering West Linn High School and starting from the beginning that year.

You immediately set the tone and established your own brand of basketball at West Linn. Other teams we faced may have been taller, faster, or more athletic but they would never come up against a team that worked harder at maximizing their potential and using the skills at their disposal than a team coached by you from West Linn. Today, a lot of TV sports analysts talk about “Basketball IQ” and how players with this ability can see the game clearly and think one to two plays ahead of the action. These analysts should have stepped into your practices Coach because this was always a critical element of your style. We always ran game scenarios in practice so we knew what to do in given situations and how to respond and execute.

Along with being prepared and knowing how and when to respond in given situations, you were also a stringent proponent of fundamentals. The building blocks of any action on the court was always begun with the pursuit of refining and perfecting fundamentals in practice. No one probably liked being down in a defensive stance until our quads were about ready to explode but we did it to make us better and stronger in games and to allow us to play aggressive defense all four quarters in a manner that would tire out and frustrate our opponents. Your elevation of fundamentals, the importance you placed upon them, and the acknowledgment and recognition you would give to those of us that executed them helped us draw that important connection of how ones goes about building success.

A lasting component of your coaching was the emphasis placed on Teamwork. Everyone had a role to play and everyone worked selflessly to make each other better. I can honestly say Coach that I’ve never had a richer team experience or one where I felt as close to my teammates as I did with our team that played for the State Championship in 1990. We were melded as a true team out of the cauldron of adversity and strife that threatened to rip us apart earlier in the year. Most coaches could have easily gave up, began looking towards the next year, and written off the existing season. But you refused to give up on that team and in response, we refused to give up on each other. You composed for all of us an Affirmation that we read at the end of each practice, right before we took the court, and after the final horn had sounded. These words crafted by you gave us confidence, clear vision, and the blueprint for how we would go out and succeed together... And we did, game after game, sub-tournament game after sub-tournament game, playoff game after playoff game, disposing of top ranked teams all along the way. No one expected us to have come that far... except for you and all of us on that team. We proved to our opponents, and to the growing crowds that had come to watch this un-ranked team that was knocking off state powerhouses night after night, that we belonged. Again, through teamwork and the trust and confidence it produces, we maximized our potential and could hold our heads high having competed and succeeded at the highest level in the State.

Great coaches and great people transcend their existing professions and focus areas and have impacts in much larger spheres of influence. Coach, it is obvious that you have impacted me along with the other players you have had over the years because you not only developed us to maximize our potential on the basketball court but you also emphasized and worked with us to grow and become better men off the court as well. I will never forget your pleased and satisfied expression when you told a group assembly gathering that our team had the highest GPA and more people on the academic honor roll than any other sport at school. Kids in the audience were wondering why you started off your speech talking about academic performance rather than how successful we had been that year in the playoffs. You took the concept of Student-Athlete extremely serious and you made this a priority for all of us.

We have all learned valuable life skills from our playing days with you as our coach. For me, you role modeled integrity, preparedness, strength through unity, and never giving up against even the greatest of odds. These are absolutely the skills that I used on the court yet they are also the very same skills I use in my profession and in my personal life as well. You’ve profoundly shaped the person that I am today Coach and for that I just wanted to say Thank You!

Even after retirement from coaching, there will surely be an “over time” in the next phase of your life and career. I know you will make the most of this period, will relish in its challenges and opportunities, and help to make others better along the way. This is what coaches do you know. And you will forever remain our Coach!

Congratulations Coach and all the best!



Post a Comment

<< Home