On Saturday night I had the distinct pleasure of attending a retirement ceremony for one of the most influential people in my life, Mr, Jeff Young. For over 30 years, Jeff served as Athletic Director and Football/Lacrosse Coach at the high school Mr. John Laurance and I attended, The Stevenson School. It was a truly special night, with Jeff’s former players and colleagues sharing their memories of him and how he has changed our lives for the better. It was a fitting tribute to a great man.
Jeff is a hero to so many people because of how he pushed his teams to be the best they could be, all the while teaching us to be humble, loyal and respectful. In addition to being a great coach, he is an admirable person whose kindness and positive attitude are examples for others to follow. To Jeff, nothing was more important than the character that you showed when you were competing. He did not tolerate complaining about the referees nor did he allow selfish behaviors that were detrimental to the team. What a privilege to have had this amazing role model as my Coach.
There were so many stories that were told on Saturday but one really resonated with me.
About 10 years ago, the Stevenson football team was leading by 20 points with just two minutes remaining in the game. The team was close to scoring a final touchdown against a team that had been very disrespectful while defeating Jeff’s squad by a wide margin the previous season. The victory was inevitable for Stevenson and this touchdown would be an opportunity to pay back this team for what they had done to Stevenson the year before. However, when the play came in to the huddle, the instructions were not to run a play in an attempt to score again but rather, to kneel down and run out the clock. The message to everyone in attendance was clear: When your opponent is beaten, you do not rub their faces in it by running up the score and talking trash. Instead, take the opportunity to show respect and to exhibit true character.
It makes me feel good to know that Beechwood kids are getting a chance to play sports like wrestling, basketball and water polo. It makes me feel even better to know that they are with coaches like Mr. Pantoja, Mr. Hughes and Brenda Villa. These are role models who push our kids to play hard but to play fair. Our coaches are teaching what Jeff Young taught: that winning is great but there are higher goals to aspire to when we are competing in team sports. It is my hope that all of us can hold our young athletes to these high standards of conduct and thereby instill in them the values that will serve them well as adults.