Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thanking a Mentor

In one of my new Masters classes, we were asked to write to a mentor that we have never thanked. I have so many people in my life that I should do this for (Dad, Mom, Grandma, Karl) but I chose a very special coach who really helped me realize how good I could be at something if I set my mind to it. So here's to you Coach O:

Coach O,

It has been a long time since I have seen you or spoken with you. It has probably been close to 14 years or so. I live in Littleton, CO now and am a Language Arts teacher. I have been teaching for 11 years if you can believe it. I coached volleyball for my first five years of teaching, and loved every minute of it except for one year I coached two teams for only one paycheck. Not the smartest decision, but I did it for the love of the game. I still play volleyball on an all women’s team as well as a coed team with my fiancĂ©e Jeff. I was married before and have a wonderful daughter Emma from that relationship, and am now getting remarried.

You are probably wondering why I am writing to you and what prompted this letter from someone in your past. I am currently in grad school at Pepperdine and we are exploring the idea of mentors. Our professor asked us to write to a mentor of ours thanking him/her for all he/she has done. I immediately thought of you and Mrs. Tidd. I can’t tell you how much nor thank you for all you did for me as an athlete, a student, and as a person.

I vividly remember sitting down at the end of my junior year having spent a lot of time that season only playing in the back row. I knew I was a good defensive player and you acknowledged that. You told me that that was to be my role the next year- primarily a defensive player without much action in the front row. I accepted what you said but knew I could do more because of your belief in me. I spent so much time that summer before my senior year working on my hitting and when I returned and showed you what I had learned and accomplished, you rewarded me with a starting position as well as being a major player on the team.

You never let me down Coach O. I recall times of feeling like I couldn’t do right out on the court but you would just push me more and more to be better. During my senior year, we played all 5 games in each of our matches and I recall that one time I kept missing the outside hitters cross court shot. You didn’t pull me out but simply told me, “Anne, you know where you are supposed to be.” I didn’t miss that hit again. You listened to my frustrations about playing, you took an active interest in helping me pursue my goals of playing in college, and never let me back down from a challenge. Because of you, I was able to be All North Dakota and All Conference. These were accolades I never dreamed of until you believed in me.

Your influence didn’t end with volleyball. Being your student left an impact as well. You made me think about history differently and made it apply to my own life. You didn’t let your athletes slide by in class, but instead held us to a higher standard. Being your volleyball student, you helped us understand and study the game. We weren’t just volleyball players, but thinkers out on the court dissecting all the possibilities and breaking down the structure so that we would be successful. You are the one who inspired me to coach myself and to understand the great responsibility that comes with being a coach and a teacher. You really started me on the path of reexamining my plays, thinking about my attitude on the court , and being an example for younger players to look up to.

Also, I appreciated what a good father you were to your own children. Bringing your daughter to practice let us see what a tremendous dad you are. You cared enough about us to share your family with us. You gave of yourself each day and provided so many of us young women with a chance to make ourselves the best. As a Christian, it was so impressive and meaningful to see you at church.

I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor in my life Coach O. Here is a standing O for you from me. Thanks so much for the caring, concern , drive, listening, and example you have set for me. You set the standard high for all my other coaches and teachers to follow as well as for me to uphold.

Thanks so much,
Anne Smith
(formerly Anne Johnson class of ’92)

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