I haven’t blogged in a while. Life has gotten busy. Teaching, covering Spring sports, Daylight-Savings Time change, the boys’ activities… Ashley would have this obstacle to posting as well. Life happens…
Luckily, I have Spring break coming up because I have had a lot on my mind lately and have plenty to write.
But this past weekend was particularly noteworthy and I wanted to post while it was still fresh on my mind…
This morning I was reading an article about a South Georgia coach who was fired because of “four major violations of the Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators.” Following this story, I am not surprised but disappointed how big a story this is with national news media covering it. We are reminded of the emphasis that is placed on winning above all else.
Contrast this with the events I attended on Friday. These events shed light on how coaches don’t have to compromise integrity to win, that they have a positive impact on the lives of their athletes, and that winning isn’t everything.
I started the day off with a pep rally at Mill Creek, where Ashley’s team was presented with their State Championship rings. Because of the size of our school, we actually had two pep-rallies. At the second one the team was presented with a letterman patch honoring Ashley. Baker and Ashley’s mom were present and Baker was happy to accept Ashley’s ring and the patches on her behalf.
Later that night I attended the GCCA award dinner in Athens where they presented the renamed, Ashley Taube GCCA Coach of the Year Award to Stacey Schmuhl of Ola High School. The GCCA also recognized Pam Carter for being inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association 2019 Hall of Fame class. Each of them had very kind words to say about Ashley.
Stacey is very deserving of the award and I am so happy she won.
I was also asked to say something on Ashley’s behalf. I accepted without hesitation, but later wondered what I had gotten myself into.
I wouldn’t say public speaking is particularly hard for me, it’s just not my favorite thing unless it’s about something I care about. Luckily, speaking for Ashley or about Ashley is something I care deeply about. Besides, I’ve already given the hardest speech of my life at Ashley’s celebration…
Writing the speech for the GCCA dinner was not hard, editing it was the hard part. I wasn’t really given direction or a time limit. Lack of these constraints are hard for me because I like to write and don’t keep my writings short. (I’m averaging 1800 word blogs where Ashley was averaging 750 words). I also thought I was going before Stacey received the award so I didn’t want to pull a Kanye-Taylor Swift moment and take away from her speech. This resulted in several versions of the speech which will become eventual blogs….
But I was happy with the end result and from the feedback I received, others liked it as well.
I was asked by a friend if I would share the speech on my blog. So here it is. (Well most of it. I had some lame opening jokes and took a shot at Brent Paige, Lambert’s coach but he gets picked on enough, so I omitted them).
I want to start off by thanking the GCCA board for honoring Ashley’s legacy as a coach, mentor, and friend to the sport of cheerleading by renaming this award.
I want to thank Pam Carter for being a mentor to Ashley and always listening to her. And for the sweet card you wrote Ashley shortly before her passing. Your kind words meant more than you will ever know to Ashley.
I also want to thank the cheer community of coaches, judges, choreographers, sound guys, cheerleaders, and their parents that have shown so much support to Ashley throughout her battle.
But most importantly I want to thank all of you for the love and support you have extended to me and my boys. These past 3 months have been extremely hard for all of us but she would be so proud of the cheer community and what they have done for her family.
Ashley would be deeply humbled by the renaming of this award. When she was nominated for this award in 2017 she told me she did not deserve this award, “but I want to win it…”
Ashley loved coming to these conferences. She loved, loved seeing her friends, being with colleagues and socializing. But more importantly, she loved the opportunity to become a better coach.
As I continue to process through Ashley’s stuff, I find notes, videos, formations, highlighted rule changes and ideas that she would get from attending these sessions. Ashley loved cheerleading, she loved coaching, she loved winning. But more importantly, she saw the need to continue to mature as a coach.
Now if you ever sat through a session with Ashley, mature is probably a wrong choice of words…. because she would easily be side-tracked by words like scoring, tip (or “just the tip” if you went to Ashley and Shalya’s session in 2018), long, facial, and her personal favorite… duty.
(Ironically, I agreed to present a session at next year’s conference. Not sure what my topic will be? Maybe I’ll have a break out session on how not to drive your “cheer-husband”, spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend crazy during the season.)
Ashley’s talent as a coach was simple:
1st, she manufactured a routine that would get the most points she could with the talent she had.
2nd, she would motivate her athletes to perform at their best.
3rd, her team would win.
Except we know it is not that simple…
Coaching is hard. And you as a coach are taking a huge risk because you put so much into your sport that is ultimately left in the hands of teenage boys and girls. Teenagers that are full of hormones and drama.
They might love their teammates one minute and hate them the next.
And some weekends you don’t know which Tommy or Suzie is going to show up.
The confident, strong, world class athlete.
Or the girl that just broke up with her boyfriend, the kid that is coming back from injury and is stuck on a mental block and can’t throw their tumbling or even the boy who is exhausted from working two jobs to help support his family.
As a coach and teacher, Ashley had the talent for building relationships with her students and athletes. She knew that those relationships were more important than what she was teaching, what she was coaching, or… even winning for that matter.
Ashley knew what was going on in the lives of her athletes. She used that relationship to develop trust and respect.
Her athletes knew the decisions she made were to give the team the best chance for winning. But more importantly, her athletes knew that she cared more about them as a person than them as an athlete.
Don’t get me wrong, Ashley loved winning.
But winning State is hard. Many coaches go their entire careers without a state championship, and Ashley was fully aware of that.
Ashley always saw winning State as that exclamation point at the end of a great season. Some coaches get addicted to success and want more and are driven to win.
But for all of the Coach of the Year winners and nominees it can’t just be about winning. It’s about knowing that you prepared your athletes as best as you could. About taking a team that is talented but a hot mess at the beginning of the season and shaping them into winners. About building a team bond. About motivating them to do their best.
And lastly it’s about that feeling when everything hits…
That special feeling that makes you jump out of your seat, face the crowd and throw your arms up because your team nailed their routine and left it all on the mat…
Usually I would stop there and end my post with a memory or statement like that. But I think I it’s worth emphasizing that there are so many great coaches still out there at every level of sport that do things right, have a foundation that is legal, ethical, and moral… Coaches that don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
I am the person I am today because of the coaches that I had throughout my life (especially Ashley). I am so grateful to have so many great coaches in my life that have helped me on and off the field and continue to teach me about winning and losing in life.
Good coaches impact their athletes’ lives for the better and do prepare them to be winners. Great coaches also impact their athlete’s lives for the better but prepare them to handle loss. Because in life you will experience loss more often than wins. If you are prepared to handle loss, you can get through pretty much anything. And that just makes the wins, so much sweeter.