Empress of the Universe

Monday, August 21, 2006

An Inspirational Story of Hope and Leadership

My sister has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery is scheduled for September 1. Since she doesn't blog, I'm sharing this one on her behalf. Here is her story:

She wrote: "I am coaching an AMAZING soccer team. Ages 16-18. From our very first day, these kids have been incredible. Often at this level you get a couple of hotdogs on each team, you get boys that won't pass to girls, you get kids who do not or refuse to communicate or to receive direction. From day one, these kids have been communicative, they are supportive of one another, they all do their best every single time we are together, and they work together as if we had been a team forever. Our is the only team that fields 16-18 players EVERY SINGLE GAME....which is phenomenal at this age since so many kids work, date, etc. We play teams that are fielding 7 or 8 kids out of a roster of 18 kids.

We played in a tournament today. We won our first game 5-3. It was a solid game and we walked away feeling good about our performance.

I reffed between games so spent most of the day at the field.

Having just completed a game immediately preceding our second game today, my Assistant Coach started the game while I went off to change my shoes (from cleats to sandals) and to take off my sweaty jersey.

Turns out, between games these AMAZING kids organized a Pink Ribbon Campaign to show their support in the fight against breast cancer. When I arrived, every player, parent, and fan from both teams, ours and the opposing team, was wearing a pink ribbon. They also asked the ref if they could play with a pink ball in honour of their coach.

(The ref made them take the ribbons off during the game - pins are not safe when playing sports). At half-time the ref came over and hugged me, telling me I had a great group of kids.

When I learned what they had done, of course I cried and thanked the organizer, a strapping 17-year-old kid who couldn't even bring himself to call me (by my name) all season - he only ever referred to me as Coach, even when we ran into him at Canada's Wonderland this summer.

We were tied 3-3 at the end of regulation time. Our kids played their hearts out and were playing great soccer to boot - (no pun intended.) ....8 minutes into Extra Time, we're still tied 0-0. In Golden Goal, the first team to score a goal in ten minutes of Extra time wins the game. The ref tells us we have two minutes to put our kickers on the field ('cuz the only people that can take penalty shots - if it comes to that - are the players on the field). We add one more girl to the field who will be one of our kickers.

At 9 minutes 18 seconds, our team scores a goal and we win the game to advance to the semi-finals.

We celebrate our win, shake hands, and the coaches from the other team and I compliment one another on a fine and sporting performance. It really was a good game and could have gone either way.

In the meantime, (the assistant coach) and I had arranged for pizzas to be delivered to the field - figuring no matter what the end result, we wanted our kids to know that they have been a joy to work with this season.

So, I give my spiel: I thank them for a great season and invited them to join in for pizza. Instead the kids, their parents and grandparents form a circle around me and present me with an oversized card.... Inside each kid has written an inspirational message. They present me with the card saying that they decided to do this, not just because I am a great coach, even tho they say that I am, but because I am also a great person and they all want me know that we're in this together.

I, of course, start to cry (as I am now retelling the story). Each kid kisses and hugs me in turn. They present me with a guardian angel to keep me safe. I cry some more.

We eat our pizza and their parents start - thanking me for teaching their children sportsmanship, thanking me for a great season and offering their prayers.

I'm bawling now....and thank them for letting me spend time with their beautiful children.


Of course, I cannot read this without crying myself. I agree with those kids 100% -- Roni is a pretty special and amazingly talented person! This is the kind of story that gives me great hope: of course, not only for Roni's prognosis, but also for the youth of today for the future of the world because of strong, positive and inspirational leaders like Roni.


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