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Life lessons come in many different ways

By Joe Centers • Feb 12, 2019 at 12:00 PM

I’ve shared many great moments with my family over the years.

From vacations to sporting events to graduations to weddings to our first grandchild, those keepsake moments are what life is all about.

Jody and I spent thousands of hours and traveled thousands of miles watching our children grow up. But now that they are gone, I had some extra time in my life to just sit back and relax.

But that changed last year when our middle daughter, Megan, got a call from St. Paul High School girls’ basketball coach Vicky Mahl about coaching seventh-grade basketball.

She asked me what I thought. I told her to go for it and I would help.

So it began. Two seasons later I have nothing but great memories from coaching seventh- and eighth-grade girls. There has been success on the court, but it is a whole lot more than wins and losses.

One story stands out.

Two sisters moved to town this year and came out for the team. Neither had ever played before so there was a lot to learn.

Evelina Podvoiskis and her sister, Monika, showed up that first day of practice. We started at ground zero.

Evelina stayed after practice working with Megan on the simple things, like offense and defense and even what a free throw was. She wanted to learn as much as she could.

Playing on an eight-grade team that didn’t lose a game for three seasons, it was tough to find playing time.

But Megan worked her in as much as she could. There were times when she got tired and asked to come out of the game. We had a game early in the season when Evelina didn’t get in and she was crying on the bus ride home. We explained to her she needed to keep working and her time would come.

She saw a lot of action and she got a few shots, but she never could get one to drop.

Finally, in a home game against New London, Evelina got a shot and it went through the net. The crowd exploded with excitement and gave her a standing ovation.

After the game Evelina was hugging her father, David, and tears were running down her face.

That’s what makes coaching young girls so great. I coached my three daughters for years starting at the rec center and into Catholic Youth Organization basketball. Twenty-some years later I am back with Megan and the excitement is still there.

It’s not easy. It takes time and commitment. But moments like watching Evelina score her first basket are priceless.

What makes it so special is Evelina has just one leg. She plays with a prosthetic. She wears long pants so you really wouldn’t know until you saw her run.

I got this note Saturday from Evelina.

“Your dedication and direction has put fire in our souls. You have inspired us to do the best to reach our goals. Your lessons you have taught us have only just begun.

“You’ve taught us about commitment, perseverance and hope. And as we go through life we will be better and able to cope. To cope with our struggles, our failures and success. Because we had you for a coach.”

No. It’s not what we taught you, it’s what you taught all of us.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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