The Hardest Thing About Coaching

by Ryan Krzykowski

Last week we lost a fantastic young man.  Twenty-seven year old Kirk Korver passed away on Tuesday 3/20 from a sudden illness.  The youngest of four basketball playing brothers from the well-known Pella, Iowa family, Kirk spent his college years here in Kansas City studying and playing ball at UMKC.

There’s always something shockingly sad that hits us when someone dies far too young.  It reminds us that death, while an unavoidable part of life, is not actually representative of how things are supposed to be.  And when that young life belongs to someone that we have coached, it can hit us that much harder.

I never coached Kirk Korver in basketball, but I had the privilege of serving as the chaplain/character coach during Kirk’s time at UMKC.  Much of my time was invested in the coaching staff, getting to know men like Matt Brown, Martin Unger, Wendell Moore, Drew Molitoris, Stephen Brough, Doug Hall, Ed Kohtala and Ruben Reyna, but Coach Brown also provided me with opportunities to spend time with and serve the players themselves.  Kirk was a regular at a Bible study/discussion group that we had for those players, and I always enjoyed the conversations he and I had in the locker room before practices.

One of the activities that we used with the team in those years was called ‘The Hotseat’, and it involved having a player sit in front of his teammates and receive praise/encouragement from each of them.  I will always remember Kirk’s turn in front of his teammates.  It was very clear that his place among his teammates was special.  That Kirk was loved and admired, and his friends relished the chance to communicate those feelings to him.

As friends and family gather this week to celebrate Kirk’s life, it reminds us that when we come across special people in the world, we are blessed.  When we have the chance to coach them, train them and mentor them, we are especially blessed.  For any coach who has felt the brutally harsh sting of losing a player too young, we understand that pain and sadness as we mourn along with you and we thank you for loving and investing in young people.

The Des Moines register printed this story last week about Kirk.