In my long and multi-sport career I’ve had numerous coaches. Many good coaches. But most importantly, two coaches who truly touched and changed my life. This is Part 1 – about my coach senior year of high school.
I remember like it was yesterday, the summer when I realized my high school coach might not be coming back. I had been anticipating my senior season since the day I joined the team, always imagining it to be incredible. But now I was nervous and scared of the possibility that the season wouldn’t live up to that. Boy, was I wrong. My senior season was perfect, in every sense of the word.
Our assistant coach became the head coach. She showed true faith and belief in us. She helped us to set big goals. Then she helped us reach them. We set school history with the first perfect season, 20-0. I joined the 1,000 point club in December. I was honored with First Team All-State and MVP All-City. We were named Team of the Week after being ranked #1 in the city. We were ranked in the Top 10 in the state. We knocked off two big D1 schools that everyone said we couldn’t beat. We swept our league rivals, 3 games to 0. We won our conference. And then my senior season was cut short. It lasted 111 days to be exact.
111 days. It should have been longer. But, it ended abruptly with a torn ACL, LCL and meniscus in a game that was a testament to the way my team and I battled and fought hard for each and every win. It was a four overtime win against St. Ursula, one of the best D1 teams in the city with a suffocating defense. I will forever remember this game as one of my favorites I ever played in, even though I only made it to the first overtime. It felt like a movie, and at the end, despite a season-ending knee injury, we got the happy ending.
Basketball was a lifelong love for me, and losing it was emotional and heart-breaking. Easily, the most difficult thing I had ever been through. Other than my family, the person that was there for me from the second I got the news was my coach (and the coach I will talk about in Part 2). She cried with me in the parking lot outside the gym, helped me share the news with my team, came to the hospital with me, made homemade crossword puzzles about our season for post-surgery, talked with me, prayed for me and made me the 111 days board you saw in the picture above.
It reads like a diary, starting with Day 1 when she was named head coach, and marks different points throughout the season leading up to Day 111, my “last day as her player”. It’s all there… Day 38, the day we had to practice in a dark gym because the lights went out. Day 69, the day I scored 29 points with the flu. Day 72, the day we hit Coach’s first goal, 5-0. Day 97, the day we not only beat our rivals for the third time, but blew them away. Day 106, the day we knocked off our first big D1 team. And Day 111, the day of my favorite game and the day my season was cut short. As she said on the board, “From Day 1… to Day 111. They are days I will not soon forget.”
Wow is an understatement. What a coach. I couldn’t have been more blessed. That 111 days board is something I will treasure forever.
We had this incredible journey my senior year. I believe with all my heart that God gave me that perfect senior season, knowing my playing career would soon come to an end. He gave me that coach. As cliche as it may sound, that season was life-changing. She truly touched my life. And somewhere along the way she became more than my coach, but one of my best friends, my big sister.
So thank you Coach Elam, for everything. You have impacted me more than you’ll ever know, no matter how often I tell you. I will never forget your coaching, your kindness, your faith, your prayers, your heart and your friendship. I am so blessed.