I have known, worked beside, and photographed dozens or even hundreds of coaches over the course my career. They come with the territory of covering sports for my newspaper.

Most of the coaches I know are great people. They understand that the value of coaching goes far beyond the idea of winning games and collecting trophies. They know that the real value of coaching is building character.

Thus, a coach happened into my life recently, and turned out to be one of those coaches whose attitude is so positive that I came away with the impression she builds character with the best of them.

This came about as a result of my decision to hike to the highest point in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, a beautiful mountain near Taos, on a recent vacation with my wife Abby. I first saw Wheeler Peak in 1981, when some high school buddies and I took a senior trip to nearby Eagle Nest. I’ve had my eye on it ever since, but only last week did I make the time to actually climb it.

I tagged a friend - fellow photographer Scott Andersen - and asked if he wanted to do the hike with me, and he did.

Scott and I were at the trail head just after dawn, and noticed a fellow hiker looking over the trail map, and invited her to join us. She accepted, and we headed up the mountain.

As we walked and enjoyed the views, the hiker told us her name was Kathy, and she coached softball in Allen, Texas, and, some years ago, played softball in Tuttle, Oklahoma, and was part of a state champion team.

As our hike grew more challenging, Kathy became more and more a couch. She checked on us constantly, encouraged us when it got difficult, and congratulated us when we met a goal.

Her biggest coaching moment came when Scott became increasingly acrophobic as we reached the top of the mountain. The final push to the top included walking up a narrow, exposed ridge, and Scott, who has been afraid of heights his entire life, stopped, and swore he could not go on.

Coach Kathy was right there. Scott later wrote on his blog...

“Kathy’s experience teaching, coaching and just being an all-around nice person, really came into play for me when we reached the saddle. I was convinced I was not going another step and I was willing to accept falling a bit short of making it to the summit that was about 200 yards away.

“I was trapped in a negative cycle of anxiety-based thinking. I was unable to coach myself.

“This is where Kathy worked her magic.

“She held the determination that I was unable to muster. She said, ‘We are going to do this. Only a little bit to go. I want you to just look at my feet. Focus on my feet.’ “

Kathy coached Scott to the top of the mountain.

So, wow. Coaches can be very powerful, enabling, character-building figures in our lives. As I thought about Kathy and her coaching that day, I thought about all the great coaches I know and have known in our community. I am proud to work beside them.

Trending Video

Recommended for you