Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Entering the Unknown Territory Ahead

   There were not any cameras present on the day I retired from a career in sports. After graduating from college, I took my first job as a men's basketball assistant coach at Coastal Georgia Community College in Brunswick. A year later, I was reunited with one of my former coaches from Georgia Tech and coached a year at Clayton State in South Atlanta. That was it: two seasons of coaching. But, I loved every day of it; preparing for games while watching films and scouting in person, traveling and recruiting talented high schoolers, offering them a chance to keep playing and earn a degree, and the thrill of tip-off in a crowded gymnasium. I made friends that I still have in the seven years I was a student manager and then later a coach. In the end, God was calling me to a new thing and I enrolled in seminary to be a United Methodist pastor.
   Coach Cremins was a significant influence on me in those years and even since. He was mentor and friend, and example of an active faith in God and deep loyalty to his friends and family. I got a note in the mail from Coach the week before he retired from the College of Charleston, where he spent the final seven years of his thirty-two year coaching career. I know firsthand how much influence a coach can have in the lives of the young women and men they lead, and in the communities that follow them and cheer them on.
   Of course, I am remembering those days as news breaks this week that one of our own is stepping aside for something new. Coach Bryan Way was able to come home thirty-two years ago, when he started out as teacher (first driver's education then science) and assistant football coach at Warner Robins. His days playing and coaching the Demons have made his family, his church, and people around the state very proud. In the short time I've been in Bonaire, the Coach Way I know is humble, smart, passionate, and kind.
   Imagine all of the decisions on the field a coach makes in a single game, or in a season, or especially in a career like Coach Way's. Really, every play presents risks. "Do we go for it, or play it safe?" In one interview yesterday with the local paper, Coach Way suggested he did not know what was next. I admire a person to admit as much. Then I come across this line in my morning devotion,

"Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory." - Henri Nouwen

   That is a word for all of us, isn't it? Every day we are asked to let go of the safe places we would cling to, and enter unknown territories ahead. This is the stuff of faith, of maturing, and of life. May we have such faith to let go and move forward. And may we celebrate those around us who have been examples of such faith for so long. Thanks Coach Way.
   Grace and peace, Scott

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