As the coach for the ASU Racquetball team, I have had a 13 year run of amazing experiences. I consider myself blessed to have been given the privilege of holding that position. This journey has been the most personally rewarding thing I have ever done, and I have grown immensely through the process.
Something I have noticed that I struggle with as part of this is letting go. In some cases I am lucky to have some of the kids on the team for all four years of college, for others it may only be a year of that. In some cases, it is not the amount of time we spend together, but the impact of our interaction that really matters. As the saying goes:
Your soul does not measure time, only growth.
In my first year as coach, I arrived showed up to a team that had a lot of talent, but without much direction. I was able to provide some guidance on the process of competing effectively, and spent the next couple of years with several of those kids growing closer with each passing practice or tournament. Saying goodbye to some of them was brutal; I had become addicted to the highs and lows of competition that we shared, and the closeness developed through consistent interaction. I didn’t want anyone to leave; I wanted the same team to stay in place, over and over, for perpetuity. I wanted a repeat of what I was experiencing with them year after year.
Obviously this is not possible, but it is what I wished could happen. Some of the kids graduated, and new people joined the team. I slowly came to realize that the benefit of this was new and different experiences with new people. As hard as it was to let go of those who were leaving, the new people coming in to take their place offered entirely new relationships and experiences to be shared. In the photo above is one of the girls I have had the honor of working with; you can see the look on her face of tears of joy. She was fresh off the court from a huge win in her first Intercollegiate Championships, making the finals that year. It was gut-wrenchingly tense, every match of hers decided by a few points after a 90 minute plus battle. I do my best to put on a calm exterior to allow her look back and see me seemingly having things under control, but it is very difficult for me to pull off. I know what to do; I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. Doing it myself is one thing, but coaching someone else through the process is a whole new level of stress, trust me.
Over the years I have said goodbye to many players; some to never be heard from again, others I have coffee with on occasion, and some talk on the phone with weekly. I cannot say that the goodbyes get easier, in fact in some cases they are harder than ever. But I have learned that by letting go I open myself up for new experiences, and that brings some level of solace to watching them graduate and move on with their lives. I hope that they have gotten at least half of what I have out of the time we spent together. These moments are carved into my soul, and I will never forget them. I am a better man because of this, and I am eternally grateful.
So if you are in a similar situation in your life, try to look at it from the perspective of letting go will bring you new and different experiences that you would never have the opportunity for if things stayed the same. Change is inevitable, and fighting it doesn’t usually do much good. But if you can change your viewpoint, and realize that it is offering everyone, not just you, new and different experiences, maybe that will take the edge off of letting go. I admit, that might be wishful thinking on my part; as I know the sting of saying goodbye is rough. But at least I find some level of comfort in knowing that before long there will be a new experience that I get add to my collection of special memories.