New Castle News

New Castle

January 19, 2012

Tim Kolodziej: A coach’s impact never fades

NEW CASTLE — “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.”  — Unknown



Friday nights.

Taggart Stadium.

Fireworks in the end zone.

The Glorious Tradition.

WPIAL titles.

And Lindy Lauro.

Since we learned of his passing last Thursday night, reflections have literally filled local restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Players from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s coming together to swap memories of the legendary New Castle High football coach.

Sure, those tales couldn’t help but include belly plays, broken tackles, heated rivalries and, of course, trips to the big game in Pittsburgh.

But this isn’t about wins, or conference titles or even 28 Power.

Instead, it’s about the power of one: the role of a coach in a young man’s life.

If you played any type of sport as a youngster, there’s no doubt you remember many of your coaches. Chances are, you have a favorite. And for some of us, one that may have scarred us for life.

We can sing all we want about “sticks and stones” on the playground, but I think we all know better.

Words have power. Words have meaning. Words can bless. Or words can curse.

Words can hurt you.

You probably don’t have to think too hard to remember at least one line uttered to you by a teacher or coach — good or bad. You probably can remember the emotion it generated in you that day. And the look on your trusted mentor’s face as he said it.

Hearing from some of the former Red Hurricane standouts over the past week has only confirmed that a common thread cemented their relationships through the years.

The Coach.

And if you are in that role today on the high school, junior high or even youth level, you better take your responsibility seriously.

You will be remembered.

For better or for worse.

There’s no telling how an encouraging word can impact the course of young lives as they navigate through minefields and meadows.

You may inspire a CEO, a police officer or a president — all because of a smile, a high-five or a well-timed “you can do it.”

And there’s no telling how berating a player when an arm around the shoulder is needed can a deflate young person’s dreams.

You may cost our state a great governor, a church its next pastor or your school district a wonderful principal — all because of an emotional outburst.

The latest statistics show about 41 million kids are playing recreational sports, and about 15 million move on to play at the varsity level.

So there are at least 5 million coaches across the country who have the potential to become one of the most influential people in a child’s life.

For as long as they live.

So, Coach, does that scare you or excite you?

It’s a cliche´, but in so many ways coaching isn’t about the X’s and O’s.

It’s all about the Jill’s and Joe’s.

It’s not about running plays or roll-outs.

It’s about relationships.

It’s about you, and me and the guy down the street who volunteer their time and money to show the way.

It’s about the kids who look to us for guidance and wisdom.

And as we’re seeing firsthand this week, their memories won’t pass away.

Even when we do.

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