by Ryan Krzykowski
Last week something pretty bad happened, and in one way at least, it revealed something pretty good. Something that provided a reminder of the power of sports and the strong, family-type relationships that often result when we do sports right.
On Tuesday morning I got a call from halfway across the country from my former boss/mentor. Bill trained me to be a football coach, and we worked together for a decade. It’s been another ten years since we have officially worked together, and I have moved 1500 miles away, but we remain closely connected. When I saw his call come in at 6:30 AM, I figured something was wrong and interrupted the meeting I was in to see what was up.
It turned out that a young coach at the school where I worked with Bill was up in my part of the country. He had been involved in an accident and hospitalized. Bill’s information was lacking details, but he had the name of the hospital and wondered if it was anywhere near me. As it turned out, it was just a 30 minute ride into Kansas City. Throughout the morning, I was able to learn more about the situation and that the young man involved was able to have visitors. Bill asked me if I could go see him and check on him. So at 2:30 in the afternoon, I walked into a stranger’s hospital room and called him by name. He wasn’t expecting me and looked puzzled, but everything changed when I told him that Bill sent me.
I went on to explain who I was and how I learned of his injury. And for the next 45 minutes two strangers talked through everything we had in common. He had just finished his first season of coaching, and in many ways his education and career path is similar to mine, just 18 years later. We know and have worked with many of the same people, and we had plenty to talk about. His injuries were serious, but not life-threatening or anything like that, and I had the sense that our visit really did him some good.
As I left the hospital and drove home, it hit me that it’s kind of a big deal the way people’s lives can be knit together, and in this case, how sports and coaching had been the uniting factor in that process. I called Bill and thanked him for the chance to visit the young man on behalf of the football family back home. Just another reminder that this job we call coaching is so much bigger than simply teaching people to try and win a game.