Show 'Em Something
Louis Williams was a larger than life personality with a thick southern draw that could wrap around you like a warm comfortable blanket. An excitable chap with a lot of fire and passion and I was fortunate enough to have him as my soccer coach.
Coach Williams from day one took me as a little guy and molded me into a competitive and quite accomplished soccer player. His big bear hugs and booming voice of "Way To Go Steve!" from the sideline motivated me week after week to score as many goals as I could.
During that first season everyone on the team had their own little friends but I was somewhat of a loaner - the by product of being painfully shy. I would hang out to the side of practice just juggling the soccer ball until Coach put us where we needed to go. My lack of interaction with my teammates really seemed to bother Coach Williams. He often encouraged me to join in on the fun with the other boys, many of whom I went to school with, but I never did. I just kept juggling all by my lonesome.
One day at practice Coach took me to the side and asked me what was going on. I was terrified that he was mad at me and that he wasn't going to want me on his team anymore. I couldn't tell you for sure what I said but words never came easily to me and when push came to shove I just started crying. Why would anyone ever want to be friends with me?!?
He wrapped me up in one of his patented bear hugs and told me my friends would come if I just showed them what kind of great little man I was. I had no desire to go show anybody anything. In fact I am pretty sure from all the embarrassment of crying at practice, much to the snickers and laughs of my teammates (and schoolmates), I was never coming back to soccer again.
He grabbed me by the ears, another patented move of his, looked me in the eyes and told me I needed to break through that shell of shyness and handed me the soccer ball and told me this was how I was going to do it. He said "Now go show 'em something!" He lined us all up to play a little scrimmage and put me in as center forward. He said all I want you to do is go score! Being the mannered kid that I was, I did just that. The kids on my side of the scrimmage went nuts after five minutes we lead 5-0 thanks to my five goals.
Pats on the back, the high fives, the praise from my teammates and of course Coach's big goofy smile showed me something that day. Sometimes people just need to see what you can do first in order to want to get to know you.
The next day at school kids from the team were saying "Hi!" to me - a big change. Two of my teammates sat down at my table in the cafeteria and talked about our scrimmage. We were off to the races and became fast friends.
That Saturday I went out and scored several goals and helped us win one of the first games of the season and man did I feel like a million bucks. Coach was excited. My teammates were excited. And for just a brief moment, I realized that that shy little boy that I knew I was somehow on "the pitch" transformed into something else and I liked the results.
I played my heart out for Coach Williams for those next several seasons, scoring a whole lot of goals adding some great teammates turned friends along the way. There's no doubt I drank up the invaluable lessons Coach offered on soccer and in life. His over the top personality and way of capturing all of our hearts and minds still stands as an indelible example to me to this day. But the single biggest lesson of breaking through that shell of shyness by showing 'em something taught me the most.
Today whenever I find myself wanting to retreat back into my shell I think about coach grabbing my ears and handing me that ball. I try every day to go out and "show 'em something" and you know what, people respond very much like my teammates did way back when. I thank Coach Williams and that bit of advice as there is no doubt many of my greatest connections come in large part because I continue to follow his advice.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Show 'Em Something