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Dear daughter: ‘You ran. With heart, you ran’

Updated: June 26, 2014 6:36AM

Dear Daughter, I will always remember our season together. The cold. The snow. The wind. Rain. The way you ran.

I will remember how we arose to our clocks’ 5 a.m. buzzing, from winter through spring. How I sometimes stumbled out of bed a little late, only to find you already downstairs, bright eyed and ready to hit the gym. Even though you had a 12-hour day of school and practice ahead.

How no matter how difficult our workouts, you always returned home with a smile.

I will never forget how you bought into the idea that together we might be able to achieve your state dreams. To prove your coaches wrong. That you at least deserved a chance to run your race: the 400-meter dash.

I will remember how for one season I became your coach — stopwatch and all. Your chief cheerer, trainer, believer.

How mom called me “Coach Dad.” How a few of the ladies at the gym would inquire whether I was a personal trainer.

“Nope, ” I’d answer to their dismay, “just her dad.”

I’m not sure how good a coach I was. I will always know I did my best.

That I was drawn into coaching by my love for you. Inspired by your coaches’ disbelief in your ability to be a sprinter. By their resistance and often refusal to simply put you in and give you a chance.

How even after you had won the individual 400 at a meet a week earlier, they left your name off the list at last year’s sectionals. The tears and hurt I saw in your eyes.

The determination I witnessed just minutes later, as you laced up to join your teammates in the 400-meter relay. The encouraging words of your teammates, “Don’t worry, Imani, prove your coaches wrong!”

And you ran. With heart, you ran.

Though I am not sure you could ever change the way your coaches saw you. And yet, that had to do with the limitations of their own vision. Not yours.

It’s another of the life’s lessons I whispered to you at one track or another, while standing near the treadmill, or while you lifted a hard set. Lessons for life:

The weather won’t always agree. Be ready to compete, no matter the elements.

Don’t quit. Work hard. Dream big.

Trust in the Lord. Leave it all on the track.

Dig, drive, accelerate. Attack the curve.

Focus. Maintain your form. Reach deep inside.

And also this: The MVP honor is not a popularity contest. Not bestowed by players. But by a coach who can see the true character, performance and heart of an athlete.

Dear daughter, I will never forget the way you ran a week ago — even if we fell just shy of qualifying for state in the 400 and 200. I will never forget the heart, fearlessness and determination that surrounded you like the morning sun.

And I suspect I will never forget weeping for our loss. The pain that I could not coach you to your dream.

But mostly, I will remember tears of joy for a beautiful season with my daughter. The challenge that brought us closer together. The joy of a daughter who graduates high school this weekend and who overwhelms this father’s heart.

And as you walk off that stage, I’ll be standing there with one last piece of hardware — white and glistening gold. One for our season.

For you and you alone are Coach Dad’s MVP.


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