Thank You, Coach. Here Is the Appreciation Letter You Deserve

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Dear Coach,

It’s been a long time. Twenty-five years, to be exact. Once in a while, I stop and think about my senior year. It’s a little fuzzy after all this time, but the memories of playing for you are still fairly clear. 

I look back on what we accomplished that year, and I smile. I also feel a little sad. I had no idea how precious those days would come to be all these years later.

Thank You for the Life Lessons You Taught Me

I didn’t realize how much I was learning…about how hard I could really push myself, about mental toughness, about not giving up, about intensity, about LIFE. 

Thank you, Coach, for making us work harder than we had ever worked before. Thank you for not babying us and treating us like “girls.”

Thank you for listening to us singing “Ice Ice Baby” 147 times on the way to the Afton Tournament. That must have been a very long ride for you. 

Thank you for the great memories. 

Thank You, Coach, for Teaching Me to Face Fear

You scared the hell out of me, by the way. At least, in the beginning, you did.

You were hoppin’ mad when made even the smallest mistakes. I worried, worried, worried about my performance.

I was scared to make make the tiniest error. You screamed loudly, sometimes right in our faces. You screamed a lot.

And we ran long and hard when we goofed up — or loafed. I think I ran more sprints and suicides during my senior year than all the other previous years combined.

At the time, it was HARD. 

But I learned how to face the fear of making a mistake and fight through it.

It was my best year, and I would do it all over again.

You could be harsh, and very intimidating.  But you brought out fierceness, tenacity, and grit that I didn’t know I possessed.

I didn’t know how deep I could dig until the year you took over our team.

Thank You for Teaching the Importance of Fundamentals

I still remember our first practice with you. You had never coached girls before, so that was new.

And we weren’t too sure what to think about you, either.

But as I said earlier, you didn’t treat us like girls. You didn’t treat us like the weaker sex.

Nope, we started off with a drill and right out of the gate, I made a fundamental error. You abruptly blew the whistle and stopped everyone.

You walked up to me and man, you let me have it. Big time.

In. My. Face.

No one had yelled at me like that before.

That was our first lesson from you on fundamentals. It blew me away. It kind of terrified me.

But I never made that error again.

Now, whenever I’m trying to accomplish something, I still remember the importance of fundamentals.

Thank You, Coach, for Teaching Me How to Love a Challenge

One of the things I loved most was how you taught us to play defense.

To say that it made a 17-year-old kid feel alive may sound weird, but it’s true. It’s the only way I can explain it.

Playing defense – the way you made us play defense – was my favorite part of the game. 

It was challenging. It was intense. It was FUN. And we kicked ass at it. 

I will never forget our first home game of the season. I just remember I had one mission: stop the opponent from driving the lane. 

I will also never forget when our team watched the film from that same game in the locker room. You pointed out how I was exactly where I was supposed to be during the defense of that game every single time.

You applauded me. I was shocked. 

But just so you know, that meant the world to me. 

I think it’s probably because I worked so damn hard for you. You didn’t dole out praise too much. So when you did, it meant something.

And Then, You Taught Me About Dealing With Setbacks

Sadly, my basketball days abruptly ended with that ankle injury late in the season.

It was heartbreaking for me since we had a real shot at going to the State Tournament.

I’m pretty sure no one thought it could really happen. But you did.

You believed it from the first practice when you took over our scrappy team with two losing seasons behind us. So thank you for believing in us.

It was depressing to sit out those last games. It was devastating to miss playoffs.

I hoped and prayed I could come back for the State Tournament because I had given both you and the team my very best effort and I wanted to reap the rewards of our hard work.

I ended up getting a release from the doctor to play……but it was too late. You had already decided that I would not play in those games.

Here’s the big thing. The thing I have been needing to let go. 

I remember standing on the sidelines when the starters were introduced. How I felt cheated because I wasn’t out there.

I had been a starter until the injury. I had poured my heart and soul into the season.

So needless to say, I was crushed. I had worked so hard for this moment and I wasn’t able to be on the floor. I was dying to get on the court the entire game.

But you never put me in.

We lost in the first round. Suddenly, it was all over. 

I don’t think I even have words for the many, many emotions I had after the game. Or for the next several months, for that matter. 

Do you remember me coming to talk to you about it in your office? I was so upset and I had to get it off my chest.

I don’t remember exactly what I said. I don’t remember exactly what you said.

But I do remember this: you told me you would never forgive yourself if you had let me play and as a result, I reinjured my ankle.

I didn’t believe you. And it damn sure didn’t make me feel better.

I resented you for a long time after that. I felt unappreciated. As if my effort had been for nothing. I felt like I did not matter at all.

I spent a lot of time feeling angry. Years, if I’m honest.

But I want you to know that after many more years, I DO understand.

I wasn’t ready to come back. My ankle was not completely healed. It was still stiff and weak. And I could have reinjured it.

Sure, it still makes me incredibly sad. (You know, Glory Days, and all that.)

But I understand. And I would like to believe that you did appreciate what I had contributed up until my injury.

I know it was just high school basketball, but it meant everything to me back then. 

I want you to know that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for resenting you for so long. I’m sorry for holding a grudge. I’m sorry if I acted like a snot after the season was over.

I was hurt and disappointed.

I was also 17. And 17-year-old girls, in general, can be snots when things don’t go their way. 

I also want you to know that you taught me about teamwork, and toughness — both mental and physical.

You taught me about winning. And losing.

You taught me some very real, very valuable life lessons. 

I want you to know that I appreciate you.

Thank you, Coach, for what you did for us. Thank you for showing us what we could really do.

And thank you for bringing out the best in me. 

Originally published January 30, 2016

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