Here's a letter I wrote in July 2002 to a friend, Grant Balkema, after he sent me his team's yearbook summarizing one of those miraculous and a wonderful seasons he had as a coach with his high-school aged girls soccer team. He was also a fellow referee, and we had spent many, many hours on the fields together as coaches, referees, and spectators. He died suddenly and inexplicably in November 2004.
I often say that the girls who play soccer with us are the luckiest kids in the world. They get to go out and play a beautiful game with their friends in a safe environment with terrific coaches and parents who support them. But you recognized an additional bit of magic this past season, and it was reflected in one of the sentences in the yearbook. When the girls are on the field of play, they unconsciously adapt to one another’s strengths and weaknesses during the game, creating a seamless web of teamwork. As a coach, you see this happen, and all you can do is smile. You know you had something to do with it, but you also know that something has happened among the girls themselves. It is a beautiful and very special thing. They will remember it all their lives, but they will not know what they are remembering. They will think their fond memories of this season had something to do with their friendships or other social relationships or how much their coaches taught them or how exceptional the team record was. But it is not that. It is an elemental statement about the human condition: We are born to work and play together in teams, but we have to give enough of ourselves to let the filaments connect. Many people do not get to experience that sense of ensemble. You have, and your girls have, and it is very, very special. They are, indeed, the luckiest kids in the world, and we are likewise blessed in being able to share this time with them.