My “Mr Curry”

In the past month, I’ve shifted the way I start my day. Normally, I’d start each day with my David Gray station on Pandora and email (after frantically hurrying through the school doors), but recently my office has been quiet and I’ve been doing a bit more reading. A bit more writing. A bit more reflecting. I find myself looking forward to reading the most recent post from the3six5 project and Zac Chase’s newest musing on “Things I Know” on his blog. I’m wondering what kind of effect it has on my day, my interactions with others, and my approach to the work I seek to accomplish in my role at Trinity…

It was only fitting that I read Zac’s post “Things I Know 59/365: I want to be Mr. Chase” on Tuesday following my second viewing of the film, Race to Nowhere. My thoughts about Race to Nowhere are similar to those of my good friend, Peyten Dobbs in almost every sense with the exception of my love of extracurricular sports both in high school and during my years at UVA. Interestingly, Peyten and I attended the same school from age 2 until 22, and I account my continued love of sports (even though they consumed the majority of my afternoons and evenings) to one person. My “Mr. Curry” is Coach Marcia Ward.

All day yesterday, I thought about these two quotes from Zac’s post:

If, on my best days, I am half the teacher Mr. Curry was, I have made something of myself.

Mr. Curry made me care about math because he showed he cared about me.

Replace Mr. Curry with Coach Ward and math with leadership, and that’s the short version of my story. The longer version is below, and it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about since yesterday. Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to share my thoughts with Coach Ward as she passed away a number of years ago. However, she still plays an integral role in who I am today and in who I want to be in the future: not only as a leader, but as a woman who tries pursue “excellence with integrity” as Coach did every day.

So, here’s my “Things I Know: My Mr. Curry” —

As an only child, I have always felt unconditionally loved, supported and cherished by my parents. From an early age, their desire for me to mature and succeed was evident. I was enrolled in ballet classes and numerous sports teams. I had a private piano coach and took art classes with a close neighborhood friend. I was sent to camps in the summer for various activities – art, basketball, dance, outdoor adventures. I was tutored in chemistry when I was less than confident in my abilities. My parents provided so much to help me succeed in all areas of my life – socially, academically, athletically, and spiritually. They set high standards and did their best to ensure that I was confident and successful.

When I was in junior high, I decided to try out for the volleyball team. I had never played the sport, I didn’t know the rules, and I definitely lacked the equipment necessary to “look the part.” After a three-day effort, I learned that did not make the team. The next fall, when I was a ninth grader, I decided to try again. I had a better idea of what to expect, I borrowed special volleyball shoes and kneepads from a neighbor, and I spent the week before tryouts practicing in my back yard with anyone who offered to help. I stayed up late, woke up early, and did my best to master the game of volleyball in seven days. Although I hadn’t put forth much effort over the course of year, I had improved and was determined to make the team. After three days of try-outs, I missed the cut for the second time.

There was something about the sport of volleyball that was contagious. Although I had failed to make the team the two previous years, I was determined to try out one more time. Over my ninth grade year, I spent countless hours in my backyard working on my passing, setting, and hitting. I went to junior varsity and varsity volleyball games. I made appointments with the varsity coach and talked to her about summer camps. I registered for two volleyball camps and gave full effort at both. As I tenth grader, I walked into try-outs with only one thing on my mind. I was going to make the team. And I did.

Due to my parents unwavering support in my early years, I had rarely known the sting of failure. They had provided so much for my maturation that I rarely needed to make sacrifices to get what I wanted. In many aspects, they were the ones who had made the major sacrifices. The experience of making the volleyball team after two rejections is an essential piece of my story. I learned about the importance of hard work and focused effort and began to develop a spirit of perseverance. Before making the team, I had viewed failure as a negative thing (my parents had done all that they could to ensure that I succeeded), but through this experience, I gained a deeper perspective concerning trials, struggles, and failures. After three years playing varsity volleyball under the guidance of Coach Marcia Ward, I had been profoundly impacted. While she instilled the drive to pursue excellence with integrity, she also insisted that I make sacrifices and set high standards for myself and others.

Similar to my parents, Marcia had the unique ability to provide unconditional love and support, but she did so in a tough and demanding way. Not only did she expect the best from others and herself, but she also helped her players pursue high standards of excellence with a focus on integrity. With unwavering expectations, Marcia was passionate about doing the work necessary for success, whether that was defined as winning the match or leaving every ounce of effort on the court. She was a coach who helped me define the type of leader I would become in my adult years – someone who possesses elevated expectations, a strong work-ethic, and the ability to lead a diverse group of people toward a common goal. Marcia played an integral role in helping me work through failure to realize that nothing is worth achieving unless it is pursued with excellence and integrity.

If, on my best days, I am half the teacher and coach Marcia Ward was, I have made something of myself.

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