Whether you competed in sports in junior high or high school or you joined a club years later, coaches have no doubt made an impact on you. For us who are blind and spent some time in a school for the blind, this is especially true. While we didn’t have basketball, football, or soccer, we did have wrestling for the guys and cheerleading for girls. Of course, we had guys and girls teams in swimming and track.
Now, I’ve alluded to the fact I wasn’t very good athletically until my twenties, but a lot of the things coaches at the blind school said for motivation still make an impression on me. Perhaps, that’s because they knew the value of keeping physically fit and active so that we didn’t let our blindness hamper our confidence. Of course, there were some who focused mostly on the sports, but that wasn’t our coaches intention. They knew that for us to be successful in athletics and life, we had to develop that deep-seated drive that wouldn’t let instincts take over wherein we were content being “that poor blind boy” or so forth.
When I switched over to public school halfway through my freshmen year, I tried my hand at wrestling again. I was rail thin at the time and the guy who coached the team joked about seeing me being tossed in the air in his dreams, let alone in practice. With that said, I love the man as my U.S. History teacher. He carried that coach’s toughness and drive into the classroom just as he demanded it on the mat. And while I struggled emotionally during those years, Coach made me want to run through brick walls for him if I needed to.
But it was years later, when I’d moved to Philly and got involved in judo for the first time that my coaches/senseis admitted not giving a rip about how my blindness impaired some areas of my life. They were there to teach me discipline on or off the mat while instilling a fearlessness that had not been part of my inner core till then. It didn’t matter that I didn’t compete in many tournaments beyond the dojo. Being part of a sport like judo and having coaches like Lou, Tony, Bill, and Mark helped instill in me a whole new meaning to being boldly blind.
It’s great looking back on our coaches’ influence. And I’m sure you all reading this can tell your own stories of success, growth and perseverance spurred on by your coaches in whatever athletic venue you competed.