The Greatest Gift

This essay, written by Chris for his application to the University of Tampa, is the genesis for the Foundation. The seeds of the "Youth Coaching Youth" vision can be found in these words.

The greatest gift is to know that you have had, in some way, a positive impact on someone else's life to know that due to your actions another person has been able to accomplish that which is normally unlikely.  This past soccer season I was challenged with such an opportunity when the Herndon Premier soccer club placed their faith in me to dig them out of a slump.  Up until that point, the Premier was on a direct collision course with last place, that is if they didn't first completely derail before the season even came to an end.  Game after game was met with disappointing defeat which quickly ate away at team morale.  Far worse even than the corrosive effects on the team as a whole, was the categorical destruction of each individual's confidence.  Truly gifted players, who once possessed extraordinary skill, began to falter due to a total loss of self confidence and belief in their own abilities.
What's ironic is that if they hadn't hit rock bottom, and the team hadn't done so poorly, then they could have never rebounded back to the peak where they currently stand.  What was first seen as a tragedy turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it afforded us the chance to learn from each other, and from this point on I began coaching them.  The next five weeks were spent working with each player individually on correcting his specific weakness.  We did every type of drill imaginable-you name it and we did it.  For every weakness I developed a drill and every failure a punishment.  Practices were characterized by discipline and aimed a fixing errors which caused us to lose.  Sure enough, after only a few training sessions, you could see results.  It was unbelievable.  They looked like a completely new team on the field, so much so that parents began wondering where I had hidden their real children.  Strategically, technically, mentally, the game was played to perfection as spectators noticed a fresh new bounce and rhythm in their step.  Most importantly, they found joy in the game.  A game, which before was done out of duty, more out of habit than anything else, once again became a passion.  And the funny thing is that everyone attributed the new found success to something different, yet all judged wrong. 
The Premier's old coach congratulated me on the creative, effective drills which I employed and believed that had made the difference.  If he only knew how wrong he was.  Parents exclaimed how the strict and disciplined practice regime was the obvious reason for the turn around.  They too missed the mark.  What each of them failed to see was that it wasn't my drills or the way in which I conducted practice that made the difference.  What made the differnce was that the boys finally had someone that believed in them, and therefore they began to believe in themselves once again.  The point was that I had brought them hope and inspiration, and to an even greater extent, they did the same for me.  With each player, there came a time when all the hours I spent teaching and the many hours he spent learning, finally paid off.  In that instance, that fleeting moment when both he and I were connected by the achievement of a common goal, I received back ten-fold any hope and inspiration which I had given.  Inspiration to continue teaching, and hope that I could do it again. 
Few people have been fortunate to experience what I have experienced and feel what I have felt - the absolute delight and contentment with oneself that comes from knowing that you have made a difference.  Though admittedly, it's not as if I saved the world; when I looked into the eyes of each player during the heat of battle, and saw that fire and desire, that passion and intensity, the sensation was equally magnificent.  To think that I, or anyone for that matter, has this power to change another's mentality; to inspire hope in the hopeless, is a remarkable wonder of the human spirit which each and everyone of us possesses.  Having realized this wonder, having seen first hand the awesome potential to made a differnce has allowed me to look into the future with hope and a sense of inspiration.