Farewell to Coaching Basketball

misc team pics-3Coaching basketball took me to Athens, Prague, London, Frankfurt, Venice, Munich, Brussels and all across Europe, you think I would remember those sites or the games, those nail biting, last second victories and losses in the Swiss, French, and European championships. But the games and places blur, what remain imprinted in my mind is the players.

My coaching gig began 33 years ago when I followed my physical therapist’s suggestion and called the father of French basketball, Henry Fields, at the American School of Paris.

“Need a job,” he said, “Great we need a coach.”

For a decade ASP was my home. I still remember my first team – Kareen, Tami, Felicia – and the rest. I started my career as a Paris Rebel, trés à propos. I have always been a renegade at heart.

Then in Switzerland, I built a program from the ground floor, starting with my daughter and her friends in 6th grade coaching them until they left for university. They were so athletic, I hardly coached; they never lost a school league game. How many coaches have the privilege of shaping a team from grade school to graduation? What greater honor for a coach than to hear from former athletes who are using their talents to make this world better?

How many people have had the opportunity to coach their daughter and their son?

Coaching boys added a new dimension to my repertoire. I found out coaching guys was just as fun with a lot less drama.

When my health gave out, I bowed out of coaching, but returned five years later when students that I taught begged me to help rebuild the program.

How many bus rides, how many train trips, how many flights, how many games, how many pep talks, how many sleepless nights, how many lives?

Former assistant coach, Tina, claimed “I’ve seen you resurrect a team from the dead.”

Well, she was wrong. The team resurrected me. When an accident abroad ended my athletic career at age 25, I felt like I had one foot in the grave. Gradually, as I rebuilt my body cell by cell, I found a new calling. I overcame health setbacks and kept going in order to prepare my team for their next opponent.

My goal was to get them ready mentally and physically and in doing so I restored my own fighting spirit to endure decades of pain.

Thanks to a new generation of players, Geneva basketball is back on top. How many coaches bow out winning every tournament in their final season of their career?

The final scores, funky gymnasiums, and famous places fade in time; what remains engraved in my heart forever is each player’s face. Thanks to all the athletes who kept my love alive.

When I could no longer play basketball, my heart shattered; my players put it together again piece by piece season after season.

Coaching the best out of them brought the best out of me.

And gave my life purpose.

Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, social view, travel.

30 Comments

  1. ‘Coaching the best out of them brought the best out of me.’ Amen, Pat. Amen! Congrats on your retirement from coaching. Your gain of free time will be the players’ loss of a mentor, role model, and friend. Nothing like leaving at the top of your game — but don’t think of it as an end, but a beginning! I’m sure you’ll find your new niche in life (or it will find you!) Hugs from sunny Central Illinois!!

    • Thanks Debbie, I will think of it as a new beginning, but to what I am just not sure yet. Or maybe there is always the chance as my brother suggest that maybe I will be called back to the game like my dad and grandfather, who retired at age 65. He rested a few seasons and then went back to helping coaching college football again until his nineties.

  2. ‘Coaching the best out of them brought the best out of me.’ Amen, Pat. Amen! Congrats on your retirement from coaching. Your gain of free time will be the players’ loss of a mentor, role model, and friend. Nothing like leaving at the top of your game — but don’t think of it as an end, but a beginning! I’m sure you’ll find your new niche in life (or it will find you!) Hugs from sunny Central Illinois!!

  3. Pat, your farewell is beautiful. Hope to see you this summer and perhaps you might see Rachel play. We have several tournaments in Bloomington. Plus, we needd to get in touch with Nick to meet up for a personal Maccalster tour.

  4. You brought such understanding of the game to our La Chat kids Pat 🙂 You were the ‘real deal’, having been a professional ball player yourself – the players looked up to you physically (you’re so damn tall) and mentally. Your real life battles on the court helped them want to win and do you proud. How lucky La Chat was to have had you as the basketball mainstay there for so long. They will miss you so, but the human connections you have made from the court to the real world will remain I believe – many dance students of mine from La Chat have contacted me years later via Facebook. What we did for them and, of course, hold so dear is meaningful for them. The world turns, students grow up, teachers retire, the world turns again… Love and hugs, Rach xxx

    • Thanks Rach as always your words even long distance bring so much comfort and courage. I am sure you understand the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye. As you said the human connections will remain long after the last jump shot. Luckily with internet we can remain connected and dear dancing feet I am so grateful our friendship remains intact across the miles.xxx

  5. Beautiful farewell…all three of my boys play basketball and one is in the process of being recruited to play in college. I’ve seen through my kids how crucial it can be to have a coach who inspires and believes in his or her players. It sounds like this was a career that benefitted both your players as well as you and you can’t get much better than that. 🙂

    • So wonderful to hear all your boys are basketball players. Being recruited is an exciting time, but whether they go on to play at a higher level or not, the lessons learned on the hardwood will last a lifetime and shooting jump shots will always be a relaxing, uplifting, soul soothing way to unwind. May all their dreams come true on and off the court.

    • Thanks Jennifer. As a fellow mom and teacher you know how enriching it is to work with teeenagers. Keep up your great work on in the global community.

  6. Beautifully written. What a way to go out! Congratulations. You brought back many happy memories. I know that you know how many other ways you impacted those girls and boys. You were not only a role model, but a psychologist, mentor, cheerleader and everything in between. One year you hooked me into coaching 5 (count them) 5 teams with you. We must have been nuts! We would pick them up from school, feed them dinner, drive them to the games, coach them and drop them off at home! You always gave those kids your all and I know how much you will miss it all. What a legacy you are leaving.

    • Coaching five teams in one season! I had forgotten that. No wonder my body is so worn out. That is a bit like raising 50 teens at one time. ha I could never have done it without the fun loving, energized bunny, super mom, assistant coach by my side. I may have been the mouth at the time-out, but you were the motor behind it all. You forgot to mention the ladies team you organized, the family days you starred in and the end of year pool parties that you orchestrated. We were so blessed to have you on our La Chat team for so many years and I am so grateful that we have remained BBF across the miles.

  7. You are truly going out at the top of your game, Pat. What a stunning legacy you have created from your own true grit. Beautiful post. You always touch my heart with your words. I know you will continue to make a difference in this next phase of your life. Wishing you the best!

    • Thanks Kathy. I look to you for inspiration as I enter this next phase and I can still remember the post you wrote about retiring from nursing.

  8. Man, I’m writing this through tears. What a writer you are. And yes, you are blessed, but so are those legions of student athletes. And so am I to know you. Very best wishes, my dear friend.

    • Lynne, I wrote this one through tears. Thanks for your steady encouragement. We never know how much we impact others. Well let me tell you miss California sunshine girl, your words have carried me over so many tough spots. I feel them lifting my heart today as I face this transition.

  9. I admire you more than words can say. You are a champion, a role model and a giving, selfless teacher and coach. Your players were lucky to grow and learn under your tutelage. Brava, Pat! Onto the next chapter of your amazing life.

    • Thanks Helene. I am feeling apprehensive about this next chapter, but I feel that circle of very special friends helping me face the transition by embracing me in a long distance hug. So glad to have you on my team!

  10. You are a true champion. I just heard and met Diana Nyad and you are cut from the same cloth she is. Dynamic, dedicated, determined and lovely. I admire all you’ve done and do and you’ve touched so many lives and made a difference, Particularly in the lives of your children, and of yourself. Bless you, Pat. So glad to know you.

    • Oh Cathy, I am thrilled to be mentioned in the same sentence as Diana Nyad and what an honor to have met her. Thank you so much for the support you give me through words and keep up your own great work as you help fight for a better understanding of MS. I know some of my readers have MS and I would urge them to turn to your blog http://www.anempoweredspirit.com/ for inspiration and support. I know that your positive spirit has lifted me out of that dark hole many times in my own health battles.

  11. Pat, I cannot put into words what you did for me when you were my coach. You know what I am talking about and I cannot thank you enough for saving my life. I amongst others have been so lucky and privileged to have been coached by such an inspirational person as you. It really is the end of an era, and basketball is in your debt for what you have accomplished. I am writing this in tears, and I also have to thank Tina too for some of this. You are both the mom’s I wish, and would have been so proud to have. Well done, and enjoy yourself in whatever you do next-door hope to see you soon. Geordie B. X (Although my nickname really no longer suits me, am sure you would be proud)

    • Aw thanks Em. You don’t have to put it in words, I know. And I also know how tough you are not only on the court but off of it as well. Look at how far you have come and how much you have to offer the world. Doesn’t matter how big your opponent is, you will face adversity head on and straight up and come out stronger from the battle. Just wish you lived closer so that I had the opportunity to see you more often. Any chance you will be at graduation to see Duncan walk? Would love to see you again! And yes, I am super proud of the beautiful, strong young woman you have become.

  12. Pat, you will be greatly missed but never forgotten. I am so glad that our paths crossed again this season and I am grateful our team learned about your story and our students benefited from your contribution during International Women’s Day. You are a role model to me and so many other athletes and coaches; thank you for all of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into a game we all love deeply. Enjoy the next chapter and the next time you are in Zurich, give us a call!

    • Oh Amy, what a beautiful tribute. I had no idea. I hope you know that I, too, admire you in your role as a mom, coach and administrator. It is with great pride that I pass the torch on to you to help lead future generations toward equality. And who knows I may be called back to action. After all my grandpa retired for a couple seasons and then continued coaching college football into his 90s, so don’t be surprised if you see me back in the gym one day. At any rate, I felt honored to have be a part of your International Women’s Day. I know our paths will cross again and you can be sure that the next time I am in Zurich I will give you a call.

  13. Pat, you will be greatly missed but never forgotten. I am so glad that our paths crossed again this season and I am grateful our team learned about your story and our students benefited from your contribution during International Women’s Day. You are a role model to me and so many other athletes and coaches; thank you for all of the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into a game we all love deeply. Enjoy the next chapter and the next time you are in Zurich, give us a call!

  14. Hi Pat, I was at ASP 1983-1985, and played basketball with you and Pablo as my coaches. I was on that first team of yours, I agree with you and Tami, it’s not the memory of the games, but of the players and coaches that sticks with me forever. The friends I made at ASP are the greatest friends in my life. I am still in touch with half the girls on that team. I have the best memories of sports trips and ISST tournaments. We came in third at ISST in Frankfurt in 1985. What a great team we had! Thank you! You are an inspiration, and I am thankful that you were my coach! Go Rebels!
    Love, Beth Doré

    • What a wonderful surprise to hear from you Beth. I appreciate so much your kind words and taking the time to reconnect. Where are you living now and what have you been up to? Be sure to let me know if you are ever in the Geneva area. When you see your old teammates again, be sure to give a shout out from me. I still remember the ISST team of 1985 and am glad the memories have endured. It is never about the final score, but about the people that the game brings together.

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