Thursday, February 26, 2009

Letter to a Coach


I realize that a letter may seem like a cop-out, but I feel the most effective way to finally voice my grievances will be in writing. Obviously this comes in the wake of senior day. A day in which we honor the time spent at Westmont and the fact that for the seniors, it is the last time they will pull on a warrior’s jersey on Karr field. You spoke with poise before the game about the importance of this tradition. You mentioned that winning and playoffs are important, but all that is superseded by the recognition of those who will have served their last home game with the warriors. You spoke to the boys of playing in honor of our names and the performance that entails. To be honest, it would have been quite touching, had Justin’s name not been on the whiteboard. Walking in and seeing that was one of the most crushing experiences of my 21 years, but I do not write this for pity. Instead, I challenge you to look again at your decision, because we all know that hindsight is 20-20.

You once called me a hypocrite. You felt as if the words I spoke did not match up to my actions. I now return the favor. Being a part of the Westmont Warriors is more than being “the Winningest team in the history of the NAIA”, it is about pride, heritage, passion, and the elements of holding Christ preeminent. Your decision not to play me on Saturday demonstrated decisively that you no longer care about the true moral and spiritual fabric of the squad, only its record. I have trained hard and well. If asked, you would find that EVERY player in the club would prefer me in the goal. In my opportunities between the pipes I have been consistent, calm and poised. I conceded only one goal in 90 minutes against the number one team in the nation while on three hours of sleep and battling a debilitating stomach flu. You gave me a three.

I mention these things to illustrate that playing me on Saturday would not have been a stretch. It would have been an opportunity for me to come together with my brothers and celebrate an incredibly important chapter of my life that has now come to a close. It would have been exactly what being a warrior should be about, whether we won or lost. Instead it was a farce. It was a halftime walk to pick up a meaningless memento and return empty smiles. Would it be too much to ask for a mere acknowledgement of your decision not to play me rather than finding out in front of my whole team as I walk into a classroom? Am I so terrible a goalkeeper that I can’t go in with a 2 goal lead? I implore you to improve your one-on-one communication, and perhaps even listen when older players confront you on line-up decisions rather than degrade them to some sort of “political faction”. Coaching should be a conversation, not a soap box.

Long before I was even Tanner’s age I dreamed of being a Warrior. I watched dozens of games growing up, but I firmly believe that it was not the caliber of soccer which drew me here. It was the respect that the program demanded. It was the way the men who called themselves Warriors carried an aura of being a part of something that is much bigger than themselves. They knew that they were a part of a program with deep-seeped tradition and pride, which goes far beyond winning. Few, if any, match my love for this program, so it fits that I serve as its martyr. I do not write this letter to hurt you or vent my anger. It is my deepest hope that my words and experiences will re-align your priorities and remind you what makes Westmont so great. Any school can build a winning soccer team. The truest rarity is that program which is a source of pride to its players, fans and community, no matter its record.

The program is in peril. Your actions this season have left our younger players especially without a sense of heritage and pride. Do you think the boys didn’t tune in to the strategically applied suspension system? It’s all very good to punish the wrong-doers, as long as our chances of winning are not affected. What do you think they thought when they saw that the senior who was supposed to serve a two-game suspension was made to dress out and travel “incase something happens”? Do you wonder whether your words still carry any weight?

I have often found myself flirting with quitting altogether or even just regretting my decision to play again. Then, every day at 3:00 I walk into the locker room. I see the faces of those men who have become my brothers and I realize that it is for them that I hold strong to the end… because true families don’t quit on each other. I can never regret my decision to play this year if only for the relationships that I have formed. I will never forget the bitterness that soured the end of my collegiate soccer career, and the amazing group of friends who spoke for me, and supported me through it.

This season has been one of the most frustrating, humbling, and angry of my life and for that I thank you. I will emerge better than I was, refined by fire, and I truly believe that was God’s plan. I hope that my words have been respectful and that you will absorb them with an open mind. Finally, I pray that the men who call themselves Warriors will one day realize what they currently do not. Westmont soccer is much bigger than a scoreboard…

And it is worth fighting for.



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