Minooka vs. Oswego & JCA, Senior Night, 4.29.15

Post date: Jun 17, 2015 10:23:11 PM

Dear Son,

You are less than 54 hours old. We are still in the hospital. You are two feet away from me in your crib, and you are finally sleeping. Mom is two feet further from that, also sleeping. Your brother and two sisters are home doing the same thing. Everyone is healthy.

Tonight the Indians had a track meet, many of which you will undoubtedly attend in your life. I wasn’t there, because I am here, you being the anchor leg I am most concerned with at the moment. Minooka won, and had some great performances, including a senior beating her own school record in the 400.

It was fitting because it was Senior Night, where we recognize those about to leave high school and go out into the world. Few will run track after this year, and that is ok. But I hope some of the things they learned in track and field stay with them.

Someday I will tell you stories about the great Louis Zamperini. Actually, I might just have you read the book — I’m not sure I can do his story justice. Zamperini ran in the Olympics, served in WWII, floated adrift at sea for 47 days, and endured two years in POW camps.

He attributed his ability to survive all those challenges to the lessons he learned from running.

Athletics are not the secret to life (we’re probably closer to that here in the maternity ward), but they teach us a lot. Discipline, character, teamwork, goal-setting, grit, the list goes on. I am a firm believer that athletics can make you a better person.

In the room next to us right now, a mother, father, and baby girl are sleeping. The mother started running for Minooka during my second year of coaching. She would have had her own Senior Night about a decade ago. Her husband also ran for Minooka, as did their brothers and many members of their extended family. It brought a smile to my face to see former runners enjoying their first child yesterday.

This afternoon I saw them in the hospital hallway. They were pushing the baby in the crib. The mother was walking gently, trying to regain her strength after a tough labor and delivery. I stopped to say hi again, smiled, and told her, “All those miles you put in are paying off now.”

“That’s funny you say that,” she replied. “My doctor told me today that his best patients in labor are the ones that were athletes.”

I thought Zamperini would like that one.

Son, someday you might be an athlete, and if you’re not, that’s fine. There are other ways to learn these lessons, but the lessons themselves are lasting. Having the talent to set a school record is awesome. But inevitably someday that school record will be broken. For that Minooka senior and the rest who are going out into the world, I hope they have gained something along the way that is more permanent than a record. Something that will help them throughout life. Something Zamperini was talking about. Something that can be unbroken.

I hope you learn those lessons, too.