Every season I close with how my team has inspired me. This has been a special one and I’m grateful for the impact these athletes have had on me.
I really just needed a distraction. I tried balancing my dream job, head coaching an NCAA program in gorgeous Colorado with having my family still here in Minnesota. It was incredibly hard. Making the decision to walk away to come back home was even harder. Emotionally I was struggling with the choices in front of me, but family always has to come first.
I selected my own replacement and took two months into the spring to get her acclimated before packing up to head home to Minnesota for good. I needed a distraction.
But just 3 weeks before my final days in Colorado I got a phone call. I had lost one of my players in a tragic and horrific car accident. Overcome with grief I decided that no emotion was much safer than any alternative. So I locked it down and I knew I needed a distraction.
I accepted a high school coaching position. I believed if I could just be on a field somewhere I could keep going.
This team was supposed to be my distraction. A less stressful place where I could focus on teaching and strategizing and moving forward without having to feel anything.
I was not prepared at all for the passion, personalities, fire, and pure raw talent that I was taking on. With ages ranging from 7th grade to seniors, from several different schools, living and traveling from all different parts of the state.
You cannot tame or make preprogrammed performance machines out of a team with this much spirit and passion. You can’t script their movements and you can’t predict their temperament. You cannot mute their passion, or ignore it. You can’t always direct it. You can’t often control it. You can’t lock it down and you can’t put a lid on it.
In the end, the one thing you can do, that you MUST do to honor the gift that they are- is to unleash it, stand back and appreciate it, help them find the purpose to fuel it, pick them up when it takes takes them out, and with everything you have, you’ve got to love it. Because a group like this is rare and the time they have together, short.
And so my distraction, my answer to a broken heart, to an attempt to hide from this incredible pain from loss, turned out to be something entirely different than what I had in mind.
This team, this passionate, incredible, fire-cracker of a team, forced me to feel every single emotion, every day, and to see and feel theirs. They taught me that though emotions can be unpredictable and create chaos, they can’t be feared, because they can also bring connection, joy, and understanding.
I knew that whatever I was facing, my team had their own battles, their own needs and struggles to channel, release and fight through. We were in this together, we were figuring it out all along the way.
As I watched my team gather into their celebration circle right there inside the 8 meter only seconds after a season ending overtime goal, the truth hit me.
I didn’t need a distraction after all. I needed the Redhawks.