Grateful

   

By: Coach Gary Edwards

Gary Edwards is a Virginia Beach native who began his coaching career as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Virginia Wesleyan College.  In his 38 years on the sidelines, Edwards has coached on all NCAA levels, Division I, Division II and Division III. His career record stands at 581-429 and his teams have won numerous championships and awards.  Edwards began writing weekly columns for Florence Morning News when he moved back to South Carolina to take over the coaching reigns at Francis Marion University. 

My Francis Marion University men’s basketball team lost its home opener last week to Newberry College. I’m always down after a loss, but this one hit me especially hard.

I talked with my assistants after the game searching for answers, called some old coaching friends, and took my dog, Holly, for a long walk later in the cold afternoon. But nothing really helped as I settled into a sleepless night.

Early the next morning I turned on the television and a little 30-minute filler was on, “The Champion Within”. I found myself looking at a young man crying, with two precious little girls at his side.

I learned that young man is Jason Enloe, and he is the golf coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The two girls are his daughters, Maddie, 4, and Emma, 6.

It would have been the perfect family picture, the three of them sitting on the couch like this, if Jason’s wife, and Maddie and Emma’s mother, Katie, could have joined them. 

But Katie died from Leukemia a year or so ago, and Jason is left to raise their two girls the best he can. He is exhausted, physically and emotionally, at the end of most days.

And at the end of those days, he and his daughters say a prayer:

“Dear God…thank you for this day.

Thank you for the time we got to spend with Mommy.

God, please take care of Mommy while she is in heaven…”

Throughout my life, God has whispered lessons in my ear. As I watched Jason and Maddie and Emma on that couch, I felt He was shouting at me and I was ashamed.

Ashamed of my depression over losing a basketball game. Ashamed at not being more grateful for all the blessings in my life.  Ashamed.

Later that day I went to our campus and I told my team about Jason Enloe and his girls. I wanted them to know why I was wearing a red, rubber band on my right wrist which simply says, GRATEFUL.

After that we watched some film on Catawba, our next opponent. We talked about staying in front of the ball and rebounding and denying the high post.

It all sounds so silly to me at times.  But it is my job to teach my young players those basketball fundamentals.

We did a better job of executing those fundamentals against Catawba, but we still lost. Lost a basketball game, I mean.

We are never going to lose sight of our blessings.