Written by Debbie Antonelli, Women’s Basketball Analyst
Board Member, Kay Yow Cancer Fund
I believe in a sport, especially in basketball, a person called “Coach” is honored with a moniker of respect. If given that title, you have earned it with a large measure of character and leadership. If called teacher, that’s another level in the game and in molding character in your people. I say people first, then player, because that’s the order my teacher, my coach, Kay Yow, defined her former people, former students. Coach Yow was a teacher and leader of people before she was an engineer of fundamentals and hard work. It took years of maturity for me to realize she used basketball as a vehicle to teach life lessons and empower her people with the tools to live their lives.
One life lesson she imparted on me occurred my sophomore year when I arrived late to a Saturday morning weight lifting session. It was the first time I was late and thought I had a legitimate excuse, car trouble. It didn’t matter. I was late. It just so happens that three of my teammates were late this same Saturday morning. On time to Coach Yow meant five minutes early, a lesson I have tried to teach my children. As a teacher, Coach Yow resorted to her old school, English teacher discipline. I was instructed to write the following, 500 times, numbered and turned in within the next 3 days prior to our next game. The four, late-arrivers that morning were all starters. This sentence has been etched in my brain for more than two decades: “I was late for strength training and I will strive to be on time for all team functions from this point.” That is a hefty sentence when written 500 times. There was no internet or lap top. Just old fashioned sentence writing on paper with a pen! It took all of three days to complete the task.
I was reminded of this “project” and life lesson a few years ago when all former players were instructed to retrieve their “file” that Coach Yow kept on each player. I thought, “She kept a file all these years on each of her players?” Inside my file were my recruiting letters, my transcript, Christmas cards and personal notes I sent her for 25 years. Tucked in the middle of this material which provoked incredible memories was my 500 sentence assignment.
I have shown these sentences to my boys. I have tried to teach them the importance of being on time. When I ask them to be five minutes early, I can hear Coach Yow’s voice or I can see her sitting on the front seat of the bus awaiting the arrival of her people to go to the next game. It is a life lesson I have carried with me and have shared with my children. I can recite that sentence at any time. She made an indelible impression on me. I’m thankful my “coach” was also my “teacher” and so are the hundreds of former players that share the same love and inspiration for her and from her.
We are her people. She is still teaching.