Pele described the game of soccer as “jogo bonito,” the beautiful game. Pele played the game with heart, courage, passion and a sense of gratitude. I just finished my 17th year of coaching boys’ soccer at High School South.
I was talking with a younger coach the other day, and he was asking me advice on dealing with players and parents and everything else that encompasses high school coaching in 2017.
I started thinking about all that it took to get to this moment in my own career and simply told him that he should surround himself with the best people possible. I told him that he must be relentless in his pursuit to build positive and meaningful relationships with his players, parents, colleagues, administrators, friends and family for they all play a significant role in his development as a coach and leader of young adults.
I am thankful for Pirate soccer.
This past summer my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The “C” word evoked feelings of shock, sadness and fear. I always talk about life lessons with my team and how to overcome adversity but now I was faced with that life lesson myself. My father decided to have surgery in mid-October but the thought of him having cancer weighed heavily on my mind. Every day was a new adventure in the high school and the spirit and energy of my students, athletes and colleagues were a welcome distraction. At my house, it was business as usual; my wife (thankfully) bearing the responsibility of taking the girls to softball, dance and CCD while I navigated through the fall soccer season. As I said earlier, everyone plays a part.
A mentor of mine told me long ago to never be afraid to show your team that you care. On a late September afternoon I stopped practice early and I told the team that my dad had prostate cancer, that I was scared, and that I was thankful for my time with them every day. The pain in your own life can be a powerful teaching tool for student athletes. I got a text that night from one of my senior leaders and it said “you always preach about perseverance and family and now we are going to get through this together.” My team that afternoon truly became a part of my life. When your team knows you would do anything for them and they would do anything for you, that’s a powerful dynamic.
My father’s surgery was a success and he is recovering well. With the help of the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at Robbinsville High School (my brother Jeff is the head coach) we played a doubleheader for Prostate Cancer Awareness and raised over $1,200. The boys made a memorable run to the Mercer County Championship game and learned that it’s not always about winning but playing with passion and being thankful for the moments that they shared together along the way.
The opportunity to educate, inspire and empower others is a responsibility I do not take for granted. In an age where coaches are leaving the profession early, I am thankful for all the “life lessons” I continue to learn from my student athletes.
The beautiful game continues to bring me hope and I am thankful for all the relationships I have made along the way.
Have an attitude of gratitude this holiday season.
— Bryan Fisher
Fisher is the head coach of the High School South boys’ soccer team, and a history teacher at the school.