Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Honoring a Legend

It's been a while, but I thought today would be a great day to post. Warning: It might get a little "mushy", and I'm OK with that.  😁
Every once in a while, people come along that have a true impact on your life. From family members, to teachers, to friends. Most of the time, these people come and go and we continue on the path we choose. Sometimes, we are most fortunate enough to meet people who start as "just the person down the street" to someone you consider family. This is my story of one such person. 
Growing up, Coach Butler was just the man who lived down the street from us. He lived across the street from our grandparents, so we'd see him working in his yard when we visited. He'd occasionally stop by while we were over, but being the shy little girl, it was always kind of awkward. I'd sit there in silence, listening to the older people talk (Oh, and can he talk! I'd only learn later how true that was). I remember being at one of our grandparents' summer picnics and being terribly afraid because Coach's dog Hershey crossed the street for a visit. Here was this big, ol' German Shepard who I was sure was going to eat me. (I now know this wasn't true, and I'm pretty sure my dad tried to tell me this.) 
A few years passed, and when we got older and started running with our brother, he'd stop at the end of our runs and the two would chat. We'd continue our run home because we didn't have much to add to the conversation. However, these conversations would be the start of something amazing.
Come fall of our freshman year, I remember sitting in the high school cafeteria, being one of a handful of freshmen signing up for indoor track (we decided to go with it, even after the Twins made fun of us for turning beet red that summer at the Track Restoration), and talking to Coach. Over the next four years, I learned just how much the man liked to talk, especially during Sports Awards, when we would sit in the front row, timing his speeches. By the end, I'm pretty sure they put a limit on how long he, and other coaches, could be up at the podium (think Hollywood awards nights and the music starting to play.) The four years of high school flew by and we made a TON of memories, from the Twin Relays, to the dog "poop" on the track,  to everything else that I seem to be drawing a blank on. The four years in high school, under Coach's supervision and dedication, made me a stronger person (both literally and figuratively.)
After college, we had the opportunity to begin coaching with him. It was the most rewarding four years. Through the early morning bus rides to the late night meets and hours upon hours in between, we learned the ins and outs of everything that went into running a high school athletic program. In the last year before we moved, we were honored as co- Connecticut Indoor Track Assistant Coach of the Year. This honor wouldn't have been possible without Coach Butler's mentorship. Or without him submitting our names (and being the only one who voted). (Annnd here come the tears. Have to hold it together- can't cry during school ;) )  He is the man I look up to, and compare all other coaches to. I have yet to meet another coach who shares the same passion and dedication as he does, for all of his athletes, whether they were All-New England, All-SWC or just trying to become an all-around better person.
So, today, as Coach Butler is finally honored by the school district he has given so much of his time, energy, and love to, I would like to say "thank you" for absolutely everything. I couldn't think of a better man to have the track named for. This honor should have been given to him years ago, when he first led the effort to restore the track. He has done so much for the school and town, and this a truly well-deserved honor. I'm not sure how many more "after this person graduates, I'm going to retire" there are, but after who knows how many years (but he still looks the same 17 years later), hopefully he can enjoy the spotlight for a few hours, and then continue inspiring his athletes. I look forward to seeing him in a few months and catching up. That's one conversation I am looking forward to.