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Everyone has that ‘one person’

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By Emily LaForme

 Most people have that one person in their life that has a profound impact on them. Maybe it’s a parent, a relative, a teacher or a coach. For me, it was my grandfather. I could write you a book and paint you a picture of how he hung the moon, how effortlessly I trusted him and how influenced I was by him. He passed away too soon, and frankly, when things were still getting good. I was a freshman in high school, and I always think about how great it would be to just have one more day with him. Every milestone and moment in my life, every big win and every loss, I wonder what he would have had to say about it. I always will.

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My 13-year-old brother, Ethan, has that person just like me. It’s his football coach, “Coach Fred.” Picture a big, burly Army guy, covered in tattoos and a fiery temper, and that’s pretty close to describing Coach Fred. Coach Fred is constantly yelling, but he’s not mean or necessarily angry, it’s how he expresses himself a lot of the time. He shouts at my brother to praise him, build him up, and cheer him on, but he also isn’t afraid to shout “COME ON, BIG E, YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT!”

There is something a little delightful and a little unnerving watching Coach Fred interact with his players. As much as he is loud and boisterous, he runs that team like a well-oiled machine. His players are a level of calm and respectful that is incredibly impressive for nine to 13-year-old kids. There always seems to be a plan, a bigger picture, and it’s quite clear that Coach Fred sees something that might not always be clear. My favorite part of watching those practices and games is watching Coach Fred bend down and get eye-level with the kids, one-on-one, and he’ll speak in a quiet, soft voice with them. It’s a private exchange, but you can’t help but notice the mutual respect and adoration flowing from player to coach. Like I said, Coach Fred sees things that we don’t always see ourselves. Coach Fred really sees my brother for who he is, and what he can be. They talk on and off the field, about football yes, but also about life and school. They talk about things that are important to my brother at 13 years old, but may seem irrelevant for other adults. They have an incredibly strong bond, one that surpasses time and age. Recently, several football families spent the weekend at an amusement park, my family and Coach Fred’s included. If you know my brother, you know several things: he’s a really smart, really nice kid, he’s incredibly tall and is built for football. He’s also terrified of heights and wouldn’t dare step near a roller coaster. I say that in past tense because Coach Fred got him on a roller coaster, and Ethan didn’t so much as hesitate.

Coach Fred asked Ethan to try it with him, told Ethan he would be okay and that he could do it, and Ethan said okay. While we walked to toward the rollercoaster, a big one that flips you upside down and goes from 0 mph to 60 mph in seconds, I could tell he was nervous. He was nervous, but he was still going, because Coach Fred said he could do it.

“You trust him with your life, don’t you?” I asked Ethan as I watched him sweat.

“Of course,” he replied.

“So then, you’ll be fine,” I shrugged.

A few minutes later, I watched them take on a rollercoaster that one can only describe as “intense.” And sure enough, Ethan stepped off exhilarated, beaming and right beside him was Coach Fred. They had their arms wrapped around each other, they were grinning and amped up, and you couldn’t help but notice the pride and love they had for each other. It’s a big deal. Ethan took on an entire rollercoaster. He faced one of his biggest fears because one of the most influential people in his life said he could. That’s ginormous. No one else could have gotten Ethan to go, but Coach Fred did.

Never underestimate the power of influential people in your life, and the relationships and impact you have on them. Coach Fred probably has no clue just how important he is in my brothers’ life. To him, he just loves my brother and believes in him. To my brother, he is a hero and a mentor in life. You may have someone like that in your life, but if you don’t, just remember you have the power to be that person for someone else.

It’s an ability that can surpass circumstance, status, and your own personal history, and all it takes is sharing some love and encouragement with someone who needs it.

My person was gone too soon, but I have the ability to be that person for someone else. And, one day, my brother can be the Coach Fred that another kid will need. Maybe you can be that for someone, too.