Last night I had the opportunity to speak, and I passed. By the time I reached the house, I knew I had made a mistake. I went to Senior Night at Winter Springs last night, and watched the final home game of the five seniors that remained in the basketball program that I welcomed them to four years ago. Three of the five were among the last players kept on the team in their first season, and four, if not five, of them will play intramural basketball in college. If I could have that moment back from last night, I would tell them this….
Wes (Below) and I came to Winter Springs four years ago, but our journey began five years earlier at Oviedo. Wes was a senior and I was a varsity assistant in my first year with the Lions. A week or so before I got to the school, Wes badly broke his ankle. He worked hard all summer and fall trying to save his senior year. Unfortunately, he sucked most of the year. Most of the time Coach Kershner sent him into the game, I would mutter in disbelief to myself, “Are you F—ing kidding me?”
I met Logan (Malmberg) that year too. He was even worse. He was our manager.
Logan and Wes graduated and went to college, but Wes stayed in the basketball program at Oviedo as a volunteer assistant. Two years later, I became head coach of the JV team, and approached Wes in the weight room asking him to be my assistant. He gave me a half-assed answer, but got on board a short time later. We coached together for three years and had as much fun as you can doing what we love to do.
At the start of your freshman year, we came over to Winter Springs as JV and Freshman coaches. Wes got a facebook message from Logan asking if he could help out. He became the freshman assistant.
I tell you all of this because, as a competitor, basketball is about wins and losses, but as a man, it is about growth and relationships. Most of the opportunities that you will get in life will be connected to a relationship that you developed prior to that opportunity. As you reflect on this senior night, and the greater experience of the last four years, revel in your personal growth and savor the relationships you have built in this program.
Those relationships include the five seniors, the six other guys on the roster, the guys you played with before this season, the coaches (past and present) and the community of parents that have supported you over the last four years.
You will graduate in May, and move in different directions. That is fine. That is how it is supposed to be, but take time to nurture the relationships of the last four years…a call, a text, a visit is never too much to ask or give.
The wins and losses stay in a record book somewhere here at the school. The memories and the character forged in making them stays with you forever.
Think of the anxiety you felt when you weren’t sure you would make the team, and the relief when you did.
Think of the pride you felt as you improved through hard work as a player, and the little voice inside that kept sending you to the gym when other people found other things to do.
Think of the joy you felt in performing for you team, and the frustration you felt sitting on the bench.
Think of all these things,when life challenges you through the remainder of your days, and know that your investment in this program, in each other and in yourself over the last four years has made everything ahead both possible and manageable.
I wish you all the greatest success.