On Wednesday, I was privy to a conversation of a coach that was trying to persuade an athlete to come back to track and field (after taking last spring off). I was very impressed with the coach’s approach. He did a little begging, but his approach was undoubtedly good hearted and occurred because he believed it is what the athlete needed. The athlete is not the fastest runner, but he could use the camaraderie that the track and field team offers. As the coach talked, I observed the athlete’s facial expressions and body language. In the beginning, the athlete was not interested at all, but in the end, the coach had his attention. Today, the athlete joined the track and field team.
After witnessing this interaction, I went back to my young adult manuscript and made some revisions. Here is a snippet of the revisions:
As the overhead lights flick on, I step back to take my last three-pointer of the night. From the corner, I pick up the dribble, spin the ball through my hands, and let it fly. Swish! A good way to end the night.
“Nice shot.” The voice startles me. I turn towards the chain-link doorway.
“Hi, Coach Buchanan. I was in the zone. How long have you been standing there?” If the surprise didn’t show on my face, it definitely shook my voice. Coach came over and gave me a hug.
“Sorry for startling you. I just walked up. Your dad said I’d find you here.”
I haven’t seen Coach Buchanan since the funeral. He looks exactly the same, and he’s wearing a Sedgwick Heights Hockey sweatshirt. When Casey went to hockey prep school in Vermont, Coach Buchanan had just got the job two years before, and he turned the school into a hockey power. I’ll never forget when he came down to watch Casey play and talk him into coming up to Vermont to play hockey. Mom and Dad loved him. Casey loved him. He told Casey that he was the best player he had ever coached, and he coached offense in the NHL and was an assistant in the AHL. Casey once referred to him as a second father.
“What are you doin’ in town? And you’re wearing a Sedgwick Heights sweatshirt?” I started to laugh and so did Coach.
“I didn’t think you’d heard. I’m the new junior varsity hockey coach.” He pulls on his sweatshirt to show he’s proud of the new position.
“Why’d you leave Frost Prep School?” There is no way that they would fire him. He led the team to the Northeast Championship title last season.
“My wife got a new job at Palmer Elementary School. She’s the new principal.” The school is one of three elementary schools in the Sedgwick Heights School District. Casey and I went there for school.
“No way. Are you bummed?”
“This is a huge opportunity for her, and she’s super excited. She was an assistant principal up in Vermont, so she’s thrilled to have her own building. Ever since we came to visit with your family a few years back, she’s wanted to move here.” He pauses. “I’ll be honest. I came to talk to you for a reason.”
“If it’s about hockey, I’m not interested. Please don’t take it personal. I hope that I’m not sounding rude, but I can’t.”
“I could use you. We need the passion that I know you’d bring to the ice.”
“I can’t. There are so many reasons. Casey’s death and what it’s done to my mom in the number one reason, but those aren’t the only reasons. I just can’t.” My eyes start to swell up, so I grab my bag and make my way to the door. Would Casey be mad at me?
“I get it.” Coach puts his arm on my right shoulder. “Your family means the world to me. Coaching your brother changed me as a coach and a person. He loved life. I wouldn’t of even asked, but I heard that you were still skating, so I thought that I’d ask. If anything changes, call me.” He hands me a small card with his number.
We walk in silence to his car. “Sorry, Coach,” I say.
“Don’t be sorry. I should be the one apologizing. I’m glad that we get a chance to talk. If you need anything it doesn’t have to be hockey related, call me. I’ll help with anything.”
“Thanks.” I say and we shake hands.