Monday, December 29, 2014

Living the Legacy

There are some coaches that are legends.  Their names are sometimes known better than their legacies.  Coaches like John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, and Pat Summit are icons in their respective sports.

Their lives centered around the game, and molding those individuals with whom they worked to be the best players they could be. Sometimes... a lot of the time... it meant tough love.  It meant going against what others might have thought they should do. 

There are other coaches who are infamous... folks like Bobby Knight, a good coach in his own right, but known more for his sideline antics at times.  I didn't even watch college basketball growing up (shocking, I know!!!) but I can remember footage of him kicking chairs and getting in the faces of players after they made a mistake.

I can quote you some of these coach's words.  I know some of their philosophies based on reading their books and studying their legacies.  But I don't know them personally...

I happen to think that I've been blessed to know some of the greats personally. You'll not see their names up on billboards necessarily, but in small town Eastern Kentucky, they made a difference every day of their life.

I never knew I'd grow up to marry a coach, but I'm glad I did, because high school football and basketball are in my blood.  Truthfully, there is no other place I'd rather be than under the lights on Friday night or listening to the squeak of shoes on a hardwood floor on a cold January night.

I learned from the best, and didn't even know it.

Tomorrow is the first day of the inaugural JP Deaton Classic, and I can't think of a better man to honor in this way.

My Mom was cheer coach for as long as I can remember, and coached both girls and boys varsity (back when they were still called that. That shows you how dated!) That meant a lot of time in the gym.  (Which is why I never watched college basketball.  We were always watching high school!)Coach Deaton coached the girls team and Coach Turner was the boys coach. I loved those men and their families.

We were family.

I can't remember Coach Deaton yelling much... but then again, I really didn't pay too much attention to games back then... I was too busy living in my princess castle at the top of the Coliseum. (And actually, I wasn't much of a princess girl.  I spent a lot of time pretending that the eaves of the gym were full of mystery and I was Nancy Drew.) I do remember trips to Newport and buffet dinners and the girls singing You've Lost that Loving Feeling at the top of their lungs on the bus.

I remember him smiling.  A lot.  I'm sure there were times when he didn't, but as a kid I just remember him being one of the kindest men I knew.

His wife was the high school librarian and to a kid who loved to read, that was extra special.  His daughter was my second grade teacher and she bought me stickers and encouraged my love for reading.  I was so proud to serve as her flower girl in her wedding, and even though that's been a number of years ago, I still find myself calling her Miss Deaton.  His other daughter worked at the trophy shop in town when I was little.  I can remember how that place seemed magical.  Trophies were a big deal to little kids, after all...and there was nothing like going in there and looking around to pick up screen tee-shirts... imagine, you giving a place a design and then getting a shirt made just like what you wanted!

In 1987 we won Region and I got to tag along for the whole ride.  I don't remember who we played or the score or even how it turned out ( I do remember my Dad getting my two year old sister Holly dressed in a cheerleading uniform with one of my turtlenecks... which is a whole other story!) ... but I remember feeling like I was just as much a part of it as the players. I'm sure I was a pest to those older girls, but they never made me feel that way. 

And neither did the Coaches.

Those high school coaches back then influenced my love for the game in ways they never could imagine.  I'm pretty sure they were just doing what they loved... and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

So tomorrow I'll be a little nostalgic as one of my own personal greats is honored by a holiday tournament named after him. And I'll be thankful once again that I am in one of the places that I love the most.  This coach's wife thing comes full circle.  I know to many it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but sitting in that Coliseum night after night is like being home.

And I'm so honored that I'm just a small part of the legacy that is Ladycat basketball.

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