One year ago today I celebrated my 40th birthday. Our whole household was infected with the winter plague last year. My party was canceled. There was no cake. The house had that medicinal smell that sticks to everything when you've had too much Ny-Quil, too much Tylenol and have had to use too much Lysol. I'm super glad the winter flu bug chose another date this year. But even though my immune system is strong, yesterday I had a heavy heart.
Some 4100 KM away, many of my friends were gathered in a place that changed my life, to celebrate a man I knew only at a distance.
I met Joe Paterno on my recruiting trip. I shook his hand, and he told me PSU was a great place to be. (Dang, I wish I had a digital camera back in 1988) That was the only physical contact I had with JoePa, but he was too big to not feel like you knew all about him.
I'd hang out with my pals who played for Joe and we'd swap horror stories about practice. They'd share how they got yelled at and I'd do the same. We'd sit with ice on our backs and ankles in study hall. We'd all cram into someone's dorm room and play loud music til a neighbor down the hall complained.
It's fun to recollect old times. Friendships were formed. Some temporarily, some permanently. Tears were shed. Bloodied hands and bruised shins were nursed. Then, on some Saturday mornings between September and December, I'd tailgate before parading to Beaver Stadium to watch my friends play on our team. OUR TEAM.
As I listened to the stories told from the stage at the Bryce Jordan Center yesterday, I couldn't help but be thankful that some of those values were taught to me through the coaches I've had over the years. Some of my coaches had more impact than others, but each one pushed me to be more than I was.
In my years since PSU, I've realized coaching others is not an activity reserved for sports. God wants us all to push one another to be more than we are. He wants us to do it with His values and character driving the team bus.
Joe Paterno was a football coach. He was also a character-coach. Here are just some of the quotes that I took from the speakers on stage yesterday. They may not be word for word, but I believe each captures the heart and value portrayed by Coach Paterno through the person who shared it.
Today, you've got a decision to make. You're gonna get better or you're gonna get worse, but you're not gonna stay the same. Which will it be?
Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
Hustle, kid. Hustle. Something good will always happen if you only hustle.
Kids want someone to tell them how good they can be.
You're never so good as you think you are when you win; and you're never as bad as you feel when you lose.
Fear no one, but respect every competitor.
Regarding the condition of the world (wars and conflicts among nations): When the world would get crazy, Joe would say, "If we could only get them all in a locker room, like before a game, and get them in a huddle to hold hands for a common cause."
The name on the back of the jersey is never as important as the name on the front.
Excellence on the inside is far greater than success on the outside.
Greater things lie ahead for you.
Whatever you do, make an impact.
My first gymnastics coach passed away this year. Jimmy Starke. What fun I had as a little girl, flipping along the streets of Chicago in the Hobie Day Parade and everywhere else Starke's Gymnasts went.
To all the gymnastics coaches I've had over the years: Jimmy, Maureen, Bo-Bo, Ron, Robert, Scott, Dan, LaShan, Terry, Judi, Breck, Steve... thank you. Thanks for the life lessons and the experiences I carry with me. Thanks to the others who coached me at camps and workshops. Thanks to all who have and continue to coach me in life. My pastors, my mom, my mentors, my friends.
We are all coaching someone. You are either going to impact others positively, or you are going to impact them negatively; and every person you meet has something that God has equipped you to give. Will you give it? Will you leave behind a sweet fragrance or a stale, bitter, medicinal smell?
I'm thankful for the sweet fragrances in my life. Thank you for reading.