Coaching 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.