Crossing the Line: The Birth of a Delusional Parent

It’s July and I’m standing along a sun-splashed sideline watching my son embroiled in a heated little league baseball game, sweating.

Chase’s team mans the field. There’s a runner on first base.

Two outs.

They are losing 6-4.

Chase is playing second base. He’s got a pair of black socks pulled above his calves, his gray baseball pants are loose in the thighs and tighten just below the knee caps. He’s wearing eye black and with his hat pulled low he looks like he just stepped out of the baseball cards I collected when I was a kid.

A baseball field has two foul lines.

A white chalk line that begins at the batter’s box, runs straight through the first and third base bags and dead ends deep in the outfield fence.

The line is to help umpires and players know if the ball is fair or foul.

The line is also to keep parents out.

Parents like me, spongy and creaky kneed, patrol sidelines.

We watch our children and urge and instruct and curse and twist and tense and believe our body language has magical powers to spell the plays unfolding on the field before us.

As a teacher and former coach, I’ve witnessed parents living vicariously though their children. Stepping sideways out of their own lives and into the lives of their children. Driving their children like shiny new cars to run down their lost dreams.

But there’s danger in such joy rides.

I’ve seen children limp through adolescence hating those things once loved because parents crossed a line, because parents got too close, because parents exploited their child’s ability hoping to recover dusty trophies from the past.

It’s something I swore I’d never do.

There’s an aluminum pop.

It’s a quick bouncer up the middle.

Chase springs to his right, dives, extends left arm and the baseball disappears and the heat rises as if Medford, New Jersey tilted closer to the sun and the right field chalk line dissolves and I’m playing second base and there’s a quick bouncer up the middle and I react, faster then I’ve reacted in years because my body feels fast and strong like a new Corvette and I dive and extend my left arm and the baseball disappears in my glove, its weight cradled in my palm and I land on my stomach and the dirt funnels up my nose and I reach in the glove and with a back-hand toss watch the ball arch into the July sky and land safely in the shortstop’s glove who is standing firmly on second base.

The crowd explodes.

Three outs.

I spring to my feet, dirty and smiling.  I just defied gravity.  I just made eyes pop. I just made mouths say wow. I just did what big leaguers on baseball cards do for a living.

The shortstop slaps his glove across my back as if to say, “Atta boy!”

The coach barrels out of the dugout, crosses the foul line clapping and cheering and announces, “That’s a big league play, son!”

And it was. It was awesome.

And I didn’t do any of it.

My son did. It was all Chase.

I just poured his Frosted Flakes, tied his cleats and drove him Medford, New Jersey.

In the sudden swell of excitement, a line had been crossed.

A line I swore I’d never cross.

Between innings as parents reapplied suntan lotion, as the opposing team littered the field and Chase’s team traded gloves for bats and it unnerved me to learn how quickly self-awareness strikes out.  How in the snap of one play I let my mind cross into his body. How quickly delusional parents are born.

Like wading through soup I pushed to nearby shade, wiped my forehead, exhaled and acknowledged that I was hot and a little bothered.

Be well,

Jay

 

“I wanted to write something that brought people together.” An Interview with Author Lisa Colozza Cocca

Lisa Colozza Cocca is the author of PROVIDENCE, a YA novel from SimonPulse/ an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and numerous school and library titles, as well as textbooks, workbooks, and classroom kits.

She grew up in Cohoes, New York and moved to New Jersey after college. Lisa works fulltime as a freelance writer and editor in educational publishing. Lisa loves her family, friends, reading, writing, and Saturday nights.  PROVIDENCE, her debut novel, was the 2014 all-community read for the Morristown Book Festival.

I would like to welcome and thank Lisa for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on.


 How long have you been writing?

I started writing in high school, but I stopped for quite a while when I was raising young children. I began writing again with an eye toward publication about 15+ years ago.

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer

It actually wasn’t a book – it was a job, or more precisely the people I got to know because of the job. I had always recognized that reading was an intensely personal experience. There could be ten people in a room reading the same book and each could get something different out of the story based on what background experience they brought into the story.

When I started working as a school librarian, I came to realize how those individual experiences with the same title could also draw people together. Through discussion each reader could come away with a deeper understanding of what they read and a deeper understanding of each other. That was when I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to write something that made people think or feel and want to share those thoughts and feelings with others. I wanted to write something that brought people together.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

Quirky is in the eyes of the beholder. I usually work at my desktop, but if I’m stuck on something, I sometimes transfer whatever I’m working on to my laptop and go to a different part of the house to work. A change in surroundings can help poke my brain. Also, if I’m having difficulty figuring how to work something out, I close my eyes and picture the story as a movie. I listen to what the character’s say, watch how they move etc. As to inspiration, for me writing inspiration comes from life.

Sometimes it’s an interesting news story, more often it is an interesting person I come upon. I am a seasoned people watcher. I love to study how people react in situations – their facial expression, body language, and interaction with the environment or others around them. I try to imagine why the person reacted a particular way and how that experience might have changed the course of events.

What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

Moby Dick

How is the writer’s life you’re living different than the one you imagined?

I was unprepared for the marketing demands and the expectations of others. On the plus side, I’ve met so many wonderful authors and made a few new real friends among them. This is a true gift when I’m trying to navigate through some difficult situation. I’ve also been challenged to do things that don’t come easily to me.

A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at the NYC Public Library – a mecca for writers. That was something I never imagined myself doing. I was very excited when I thought I was going to be presenting in the safety of a panel discussion. When I realized I would be alone on the stage and needed to be funny, panic washed over me. I was certain I couldn’t be funny on demand and particularly in front of an auditorium filled with people. In the end, despite my inner terror, it went well and I lived to tell about it. As an added bonus, that experience made other speaking engagements seem easy by comparison!

If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

I would start with EL Konigsburg and her novels for grades 6 and up. I admire the way she always respected the intelligence of her readers and appreciated their ability for compassion. Her novels make readers think and feel and connect with the world. I would add Lois Lowry, another power house of a writer. I admire her creativity, and like Konigsburg, her ability to tap into the humanity of her readers. Thirdly, I would add some Jerry Spinelli. His ability to be both funny and serious is a gift. And like Konigsburg and Lowry, Spinelli consistently constructs characters that readers can find a piece of themselves in.

Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

That’s a tough one. If I can only choose one, I’d like to have lunch with Becky (Providence) to let her know she can move forward in life without having to let go of the best of her past and that she is more capable than she realizes.

What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’ve been working on a couple YA novels, but needed to take a break from them. I switched over to a cozy mystery and am thoroughly enjoying writing it.

Where can we find your books?

You can find my books in libraries (even as far away as Australia and Singapore!), bookstores, and online bookstores. You can find me at book festivals, libraries, and schools throughout the year and online at:

www.lisacolozzacocca.com  (website)

Contact Lisa at:

info@lisacolozzacocca.com  (e-mail)

facebook.com/lisacolozzacocca

@mynameislisa27 (Twitter)


Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

It’s called “The Alchemist” and you should read it.

If I could have a conversation with my 30 year old self it would go like this:

“It’s called The Alchemist and you should read it.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re 30.  Because you’re foolish. Because you’re playing it safe. Because you think time is your friend. You yearn for the wrong things. You make half-hearted choices. You feel obligated to adopt people’s opinions as your truth because you desperately fear rejection. You want to live the easy life and expect hard-won rewards. You take too much for granted. You’ve failed to understand that all choices, even the small ones, ripple with consequence and even choosing not to choose has consequences. You should read The Alchemist because you’re going to father two more children and you’re going to invest your money into grad school then you’re going to get sick, chronically sick, a sickness will break you physically, test you spiritually and on a cold December day you’ll wring your hands and look into the soft eyes of your children and shut your laptop and dropout of grad school and be more lost then you’ve ever been and it’s only then, as you wade through some of the most draining, exhausting, terrifying hours, days, weeks, months, years that you will learn that discomfort and pain are necessary for growth. That your scars, those jagged stories, knitted with conflict which tattoo your limbs and your internal organs are signs, are omens from a higher power that give your life meaning and purpose.”

My 30 year old self looks down, kicks dust for awhile and as if talking to his toes, “What’s the book again?”

“The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

The silence balloons into something big and palpable between us.

30 year old self turns up his eyes, offers that familiar, coy smile only found in photo albums now. He’s young and thin and clueless.

“So this Alchemist book…”, he crosses his arms and leans his shoulders back, “… can I get the Sparknotes.”

The Alchemist is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

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Written by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, the anniversary edition is prefaced with Coelho describing how The Alchemist sold only 1 copy in the first week, how it took 6 months for a second copy to sell (both copies were bought by the same person!) to selling more then 65 million copies and translated into 80 different languages, a Guinness Record for most translated book by a living author.

The premise of The Alchemist is simple: A poor sheep herder, Santiago, decides to sell his flock to go questing across the Arabic dessert for a treasure supposedly located near the pyramids of Egypt.

Of course, what he learns about himself, about life and happiness and love and truth on the journey are more valuable then any extravagant treasure he could find.

Why am I such a fan?

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Because Coelho implores a very simple, parabolic style to tell Santiago’s story, which is essentially the story of humankind.

It’s about decision making.

It’s about following your dreams.

It’s choosing to live a life that gives your heart and soul meaning and purpose.

It’s about finding your true self or as Coelho calls it “Personal Legend”

Making a decision, taking action is really hard.

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I always thought the older, more mature I got the easier decision making would be. Not true. In fact, I’m learning the older you get the more things         (money, children, health, job security) there are, the harder decisions become.

As adults, we so fear being wrong. We yearn for the right decision. We foolishly think the right decision will unlock this magical, unicorn life that we dream of.

The Alchemist argues that we can live a good life by avoiding decision making and risk taking.

We can earn money, own a house, raise a family, make friends and host parties. We can have all the magazine comforts of a “good life”. However, the “good life” will always fall short of the one we imagine for ourselves.

This “good life”, the cautious life will always prevent us from achieving our Personal Legend.

And this “good life” will gnaw us, dog us, press us and leave us with a hollow heart that beats and beats and beats as we stagger through a desert life, a life that mercifully ends with our inevitable death.

The Alchemist reminds us it’s the easy path, the lighted and well-worn path that has been traversed by so many souls is the far more dangerous path than the mysterious, unblazoned path.

5 More Takeaways

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  • Every human learns of their destiny as a child. As a child we play, we embrace our passions, however we age and the world’s opinions infiltrate our heart and we abandon our destiny and replace what we really want with what other people want or us.
  • We must be aware of signs/omens. They offer clarity and direction.
  • Our choices have consequences that stretch beyond our knowledge and our life time.
  • Our destiny, our ultimate goal requires endless suffering.
  • Suffering for our destiny is better/more heroic/more rewarding/more badass then living a safe life.

5 Favorite Quotes… (pictures from my book to prove I actually read it and didn’t opt for Sparknotes this time)

The Alchemist’s Call to Action

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Life is a noisy ride. Whether we’re ready for it or not, we will hear everyone’s opinions about ourselves.

If we adopt what other’s think of us as our truths, we will come to hate ourselves. We will live, as the American quote machine Henry David Thoreau described, “a life of quiet desperation.”

The Alchemist’s simple narrative style amplifies the books simple message, no matter the noise, no matter the costs–follow your destiny.

It’s a simple message, one we once understood yet we aged, got comfortable, we vilified change and life’s simple message got twisted in something incredibly complicated.

Be well,

Jay

From Teacher to Romance Writer: An Interview with Award Winning Author Penelope Marzec

Penelope Marzec grew up along the Jersey shore, heard stories about Captain Kidd, and dug for his buried treasure. Her adventure resulted in a bad case of poison ivy.
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Deciding books were better than buried treasure, she discovered romance novels and was soon hooked on happy endings. She became an early childhood educator and found her own hero in an electrical engineer who grew up in Brooklyn, played the accordion, and was immune to poison ivy. Together they raised three daughters. Now retired, Penelope either writes her stories or paints seascapes in oils. Sometimes she sings while her husband plays the accordion.
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Penelope writes in several subgenres of romance. Two of her inspirationals won the EPPIE award and one finaled in that contest. Her paranormal, Irons In The Fire, was a nominee for Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award.
I would like to welcome and thank Penelope for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on. 


 How long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was nine. I wanted to fly, so I wrote a book about a girl who could fly. In addition to flying, the plot involved romance. I still write romance, but I gave up on the flying heroine idea. 

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

As I said, I started writing when I was nine, but I wasn’t serious about getting a book published until I was nearing forty. By then I had read a plethora of truly boring, unhappy books. I was sure I could write something far more entertaining. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the specific book that egged me on. I just remember it was a paperback. Since I had a plot already whirling around in my head, I put the old manual typewriter on the dining room table and I hammered away for two months to get it all down on paper. The internet hadn’t been invented yet. Sending out a ream of paper in a box to a publisher wasn’t cheap or easy and I had to wait an entire year before the publisher replied with a rejection. I was undaunted. During that long year of waiting, I had written another book. I wasn’t going to quit. Writing was fun!

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

I don’t have any quirky rituals, though I’ve tried a few other authors claimed worked for them. One author said she sniffed a particular essence oil when she sat down to write. She was conditioning her brain to realize that when she smelled that aroma, it was time to get to work–much the same technique as Pavlov used on his dogs. I bought some grapefruit essence oil and happily sniffed it when I sat down to write. It didn’t seem to make any difference. In my case, I just have to get comfy, add peace and quiet, get bored with the blather on Facebook and write. My house is not totally quiet because hubby practices his accordion upstairs, but the door is closed and the music is faint. Also, he plays the same song over and over. I’ve become adept at tuning him out.  

Writing inspiration comes from everywhere but favorite sources for me are often trips to historical houses or museums. However, I usually pick up ideas whenever I visit someplace new.

 What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

 I’ve never read Lord of the Flies. The summary alone is far too depressing. I read Brave New World because it was required. I read 1984, also because it was required. I read Ethan Frome because my daughter was required to read it and said it was the worst book she ever read. So I read it and agreed with her. I had enough sad literature and continue to stick with happy endings.
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How is the writer’s life you’re living different than the one you imagined?

 I thought I would make a great deal of money, live in a mansion, and never have to do anything more than type all day. That didn’t happen. I taught for twenty-five years and squeezed in my writing time whenever I could while dreaming of retirement when I imagined I would have endless time to write. Retirement didn’t work out the way I hoped. I had to care for my elderly father. After he died, I got breast cancer. Now I’m helping my husband watch over his mother. I still squeeze in writing time, but it hasn’t been easy. On the other hand, those precious writing minutes are a great tonic for the soul.
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If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

 I loved all the books written by Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart. Those where the popular authors when I was young–the ones who wrote Gothic suspense. They never failed to satisfy me. They contained intrigue along with romance. The hero invariably appeared to be a bad guy at first, but the authors cleverly turned everything around at the end. The books were very well written and worth reading more than once.
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Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

I’ve love to meet Wildon Forest, my Prince of the Mist, for lunch. He was about the sweetest guy I invented plus he loved garlic. The two of us could have a delightful pasta primavera and wear diaphanous togas. What fun!

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 What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’ve been working on the third book in my Patriots series. The book is titled Patriot’s Courage and is set in Ohio Territory in 1794. It opens on the day of the Battle of the Fallen Timbers. I’ve enjoyed the research on the time period. The hero joined General Wayne’s army to avenge the death of his brother, but soon questions his own motives after he is injured and discovers the Indian he killed in battle was the husband of a white woman who was adopted by the tribe at a young age.

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Where can we find your books?

My books are at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and similar outlets. 

Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

Why You Should Clean Up Your House Before You Go On Vacation

It’s the day before our annual family vacation at the New Jersey shore and my wife is buzzing around the house doing chores.

Vacuuming and cleaning out closets and dusting and hanging pictures we meant to hang last summer.

Amidst this whirlwind of Windex, I’m on the couch watching Predator 2.

Bill Paxson just met his fate on a Los Angeles subway car when Cindy asks me to come upstairs and help her move some boxes into the attic.

I hold my spot on the couch just long enough to see Gary Busey (who offers an honest portrayal of a bat-shit crazy scientist) get sawed in half by the Predator’s razor Frisbee when I hear my name called again.

Reluctantly, I trudge up the stairs and into our bedroom to find Cindy smiling.

“Look how clean our room is!”

“Yeah, it looks great.”

Cindy proudly looks around, “I think so.”

I nod and smile and wonder how Danny Glover is doing.

“Can you help me put some boxes in the attic?”

“Why are you cleaning? We’re going a vacation tomorrow.”

Cindy moves her hands to her hips and holds the look of a feisty double-handled teacup, “Because if I leave the house a mess, the whole time on vacation, I’ll be thinking about how when I come home I’ll have to clean.”

I help Cindy with the boxes, then hang a few pictures in the boys’ room, then dissemble and put away Dylan’s crib that he hasn’t used in two years.

Sadly, when I get back to the couch Predator 2 is over.


As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.”
Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The past few days have been a little rough.

Physically, the summer humidity has been fueling my sarcoidosis symptoms. Joint pain. Muscle fatigue. A slightly off-balance feeling. And plus 12 weeks later, my broken foot is still not fully healed.

Mentally, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career. I love teaching. I love helping students become critical thinkers and better writers. And I’m grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had. For the friendships and connections I have made.

But the house of education is in disorder.

Transient policies. Administrative hypocrisy. Commercially produced standardized tests. A one-size fits all teacher evaluation system. Lack of governmental funding. The piles of paperwork no one ever reads. Grade grubbing. Participation awards. Helicopter parents. Stale contracts. Capricious copy machines. No child left behind.

It’s all starting to wear on me.

Trust your change is what I proudly announced to a stadium full of students and parents and teachers and administrators and school stakeholders a few weeks ago.

And now, I’m fixed at the always awkward intersection of taking my own advice or becoming a hypocrite myself.

It’s Saturday night.

We leave for vacation early tomorrow morning.

With a mound a duffel bags, coolers and sleeping bags by the front door I’m writing this post, setting it to auto-publish for Friday morning, and I’m going to spend the next six unplugged.

My body, my mind need this.

However, I needed to write this post before I left. If I didn’t, I would have been worrying about what to write all week instead of giving myself permission to organize my life, to enjoy the moment.

I guess now, I know how my wife feels.

Be well,

Jay

Introducing Girls to STEM: An Interview with Award Winning Author Laurie Wallmark

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book.

Her recently released picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal.

Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

I would like to welcome and thank Laurie for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on.


How long have you been writing?

In grade school, I liked to write songs. In high school, I switched to poetry. After that, there was a very long break in my writing career. I’ve been writing for children since 1999.

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn’t a book, but rather an idea that made me realize I wanted to be a writer. I love reading middle grade books, and one day I had an idea for a story of my own. This idea turned into the first novel I ever wrote for children. It may never get published, but it was my first step on the path to becoming a writer.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

I think like most writers, I try to keep my senses open to the world around me. Inspiration can come from a newspaper article, an overheard snippet of conversation, or even a tingle on my skin while walking outside.

What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

So many books. So little time. I am woefully under-read in classic non-Western literature. When I was in school, it wasn’t part of the curriculum, and I didn’t know to seek out books like Ramayana and The Tale of Genji. I’m working to fill in these gaps in my education.

Why do you write? 

This one’s easy. Writing is fun (except when it isn’t).

If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

I’d pick three authors from the golden age of science fiction—Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. I appreciate the straightforward way they incorporated science into their stories, just like I try to do with my picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).

Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

I’d love to eat lunch with Rivka, from my book Rivka’s Lessons. Rivka is a little Jewish girl who lived in the Lower East Side in the 1920s. She can’t wait to go to school and learn, so she takes matters into her own hands. I figure Rivka would enjoy splitting a corned beef on rye with me.

What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’m writing another picture book biography, this time of a woman mathematician.

Where can we find your books?  Where can we find you?

My books are available from your local bookstore, Indiebound, or Amazon.

Appearanceshttp://www.lauriewallmark.com/calendar.php

Follow me online on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurie.wallmark

Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lauriewallmark/


Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

They Once Called Me Coach

Last Wednesday, after a late afternoon thunderstorm wiped the sky of its dark imperfections,  I stood before the Robbinsville High School graduating class and delivered the commencement address I entitled “Trust Your Change.”

Later the night, while enjoying a well deserved post-graduation beverage, a colleague asked me how long I’d been working on the speech.

I told him I had been brainstorming for a few months.

But the next morning, over a cup of coffee, I realized that the seeds of the speech took root four years prior when members of the graduating class, who were merely freshman, witnessed one of the most difficult admissions of my life.

Here’s what happened.

It was early September. The classroom was warm and bright with afternoon sunshine.

I sat behind my desk. The players sat in the desks before me.

I was quiet. They were quiet. The room was quiet.

In fact, in my world, those days were filled with long quiet stretches, as if everything was waiting for something. As if life was pacing a hospital floor.

They were teenage boys who thought they were in trouble, so they carried themselves with all the intimacies of teenage boys in trouble. Bowed heads, bent eye brows, dropped shoulders.

The day before we lost 8-0. Which, in high school varsity soccer, is a blowout.

They were expecting me to yell. To call them an embarrassment.  To challenge their character and commitment. To level an edict of longer, harder practices. There would be less smiling, less fun. More running. More yelling. Until they learned how to practice and play hard. Until they learned to dig deeper, to break through self-made thresholds and not quit on themselves, on their teammates, on the program they represented.

Initially, I pursued a teaching career because I wanted to coach.

In 2006, when I was hired to teach English at Robbinsville High School, I was appointed the first varsity head coach in program’s history.

In fact, this was a big moment in my history.

At 26 I was handed the responsibility of building a high school soccer program in central New Jersey, an area whose soil was rich in soccer tradition.

In those early years we didn’t win many games. But other coaches complimented me on the way we played. The local paper did a story on the program’s positive development. We were making progress.

I ran a fairly tight ship. My preseason workouts were physically and mentally demanding. I held my players accountable on and off the field.

I wanted the program to be a positive force in the players lives. A program that offered instruction both on and off the field. That taught players to replace entitlement with perseverance. Arrogance with integrity. A program that taught players how to embrace adversity.

A few days before I led my players into my classroom, my doctor told me that the next few months were going to be littered with tests. MRI’s. CAT Scans, blood work and a lot of waiting.

The doctor put his hand on my shoulder, instructed me to spend time with my family, prioritize, and remove as much unnecessary stress from my life.

The classroom was bright and warm.

I remember how quiet it was. How they were looking at me with lowered eyes. Afraid of the scolding that they seemed destined for.

I don’t know how I started but I’m sure it was not as graceful as I would have liked.

At some point I told my team I was resigning as their coach.

I admitted to them that I was sick and physically unable to be the coach they needed. And though I didn’t say it, they knew it– I was scared.

I addressed the freshmen specifically. I apologized for my brevity. I told them that I hope I would be around (meaning alive) in four years to see them graduate high school.

Things were quite for awhile.

Then, not knowing what else to do or say, I looked at the assistant coaches, at the team and said, “Alright boys, time to go to work.”

Last week

Under a high sun and a wide open blue sky, I stood on the same field I had coached for 9 years and told the graduating class of 2017 to trust their change.

Here’s the inside of my speech binder. To the left, is what I said to myself before I began.

Four years have passed.

Those freshmen are now high school graduates.

I am still sick but very much alive.

There are some days when I miss coaching.

Days when the sun is just right. When in one afternoon, summer folds into fall all at once.

I miss the intensity, the competitiveness.

I miss the halftime speeches.

The victories. The defeats.

But most of all, I miss the players.

The camaraderie. The bond that forms between player and coach.

The candid conversations about how sports and all its trials and tribulations teach us all we need to know about life.

I miss watching my players transform from boys into young men, a massive change that happens as fast and as subtle as a summer thunderstorm, a storm that dawns a perfect afternoon, with a sun that is strong and bright and a sky that is unclouded and forever.

Be well,

Jay

Proudly standing with two former players, Brendan (left) and Ralph (right).