For decades, sports have brought together people from all different walks of life. Each sport has its own unique story in how it was created. However, one thing remains a constant throughout every sport – coaches. The dictionary defines a coach as “one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy”. But anyone who has played sports in their lifetime knows that a coach is so much more than that.
I was fortunate to grow up in an particularly competitive and athletic family. And because of this, I played almost every sport growing up. In 23 years, this meant instruction from many of coaches, all different in their own respects. Each played a significant role in my development – not only as an athlete – but as a human being. To them I am forever grateful for the time, effort, and energy they put into making me better. This blog is an open letter, thanking the coaches that have made the biggest impacts in my life throughout my years of competing in sports.

Coach Mike Coyle (Basketball/Football Coach)

Coach, you taught me how to control my emotions and work through problems at a very young age, which I’m sure was very challenging for you – being that I am knowingly very stubborn and competitive. Quite frankly, I was a cry baby. I would pull my hair every time I made a bad pass in basketball and fake an injury every time I got tackled behind the line of scrimmage in football. Instead of giving up on me, you worked with me and believed in me. I will never forget the time I dove into a brick wall during a basketball game to save a ball from going out of bounds. You came up to me trying to hold back a laugh and asked me “Nate, why would you do that?” Well coach, the answer to that question perfectly describes the effect you had on me, that being I will never give up on a play, because you never gave up on me. You have been a role model to me since I was old enough to understand what that even means. Thank you, coach. You are so much more than someone who instructs players to me.

Coach Matt Hogan (Lacrosse)

Coach, you taught me how to be tough and handle myself in the eyes of adversity. Having worked with you for 10 years now, there are so many similarities between your work ethic and coaching style. Everything must be completed perfectly, and if it is not, you will let me know. More importantly, you also let me know when I did the right thing, which is so often overlooked. You just wanted to see me succeed and you were hard on me for all the right reasons. You instilled responsibility in me, and made me understand that I needed to be held accountable for my actions. These are things I still carry with me to this day, and will for the rest of my life. Thank you, coach. You are so much more than someone who instructs players to me.

Coach Don Zimmerman (Lacrosse)

Coach, you taught me how to have passion and respect for the things you love in life. My freshman year at UMBC, I did not have the love for lacrosse that I had growing up. I felt like I had given everything to the sport and received nothing back. Once I saw the passion and love you had for every one of your players, I fell right back in love with the game. Not only did you teach me so much about lacrosse in my four years, you also taught me endless life lessons – ones that I live by every day. The fact that you took time to thank every parent for coming to the game, even when we lost, showed me that you truly cared about your players and their families. People always ask me why I decided to have a retirement party for you, instead of a graduation party for myself. The answer to that is very easy, it is because without you, who knows If I would have even graduated. I would not have the work ethic and passion for life that I do now. Thank you, coach. You are so much more than someone who instructs players to me.

All three of these coaches have had a significant impact on my life throughout the years. They have all inspired me to be a coach and have the same impact they had on me. Coach Zimmerman once said, “When I die, it will not be about my win-loss record, it will be about who attends my funeral.” This quote says it all, because to a coach, we are much more what the scoreboard may suggest.

– Nathan Lewnes