From a Coach’s Heart

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of MemphiSport.

After graduating high school, and upon entering college, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in education and coaching. Moreover, I now have the privilege to use what I have learned from my experience as an athlete to serve as a teacher and coach. I am presently entering my twenty-ninth year at Briarcrest Christian School. Twenty of those years were spent coaching men’s basketball. The last of those twenty-nine years, I’ve had the privilege of coaching girls. And during those years, as you can imagine, I have had the opportunity to coach student athletes who have gone on to excel athletically, as well as in other career endeavors. Because of their participation in sports, many of these young men and women have signed scholarships that have afforded them the opportunity to pursue educational and career goals.

So often, we read about those high profile athletes who have signed the big scholarships and accumulated many athletic honors (i.e. All-District, All-Region, All-State, MVP’s, State Champions). But, from a coaching perspective, I’ve witnessed student athletes who come early and stay late, and spent countless hours perfecting their skills. As I have stated earlier, the media hungers to write and highlight those athletes who have received the prestigious honors like the ones mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, many of these athletes who I’ve coached, very few of them have had to persevere through injuries after injuries, causing them a setback in their athletic goals. Many of those athletes would have said, “O. K., enough is enough.” One unique athlete, whose story I would like to share, is none other than a young lady by the name of Samantha McColgan.

Samantha has always been a gifted athlete who has played many sports. In middle school, she excelled in cross-country, track, basketball and soccer. And, as I observed her performing in middle school, you can imagine how excited I was to know that she would be beginning her sports career in high school. For you see, Samantha would be one of those exceptional athletes that every coach wants and every team needs.

Samantha’s injury record is a challenging one. Take a look at what she had worked through.

Injury Record:

Eighth grade: A very difficult back injury that would sideline her for the rest of her middle school career.

Ninth grade: September of her ninth grade year, she suffered a season ending injury on the soccer field tearing her ACL. After ten months of rehab, Samantha, who is affectionately known by everyone as Sam, made a comeback.

Sophomore year: Sam had torn the same ACL twice within Fourteen months.

Junior year: The third tear came the summer of her rising junior year. Through many long months of continuous rehab and the aid of a knee brace, Sam was finally able to finish a basketball season.

Senior year: With Sam running the point and leading our team, we began the 2011-12 season with great expectation and anticipation for having a really good year. Well, on December 17, 2011, at Liberty Tech High School, Sam McColgan goes down again for the fourth time in her career. This time, it was due to the tear of the meniscus to the same knee that she had suffered three previous ACL tears. Wow! What a disappointment!

With an injury record such as Sam’s, one can imagine the range of emotions that this young lady must be going through, now. In spite of my being taught to trust God, and knowing that He is in control, I found myself asking God that big question “Why?” “Why would a person who has gone through so much; who had worked so hard; and, been so committed have to keep going through this over and over again?” Even though she was not able to be on the court with us, Sam was always on the sidelines rehabbing, cheering, and encouraging her teammates. Throughout all of the injuries she had sustained, I can only recall her missing practices or games due to her being in the hospital for surgery, or at physical therapy being rehabbed. I have never seen a person more determined to get back on the floor than Sam McColgan. One would have to look at her and think, “How much more could any one person endure?”

In my career as a coach, I have never been more encouraged by someone’s determination as I have Sam’s. She is seen as a role model for our team, especially for the young players. And if I may, allow me to share this statement, made to me by one of her freshman teammates, whose name I will not mention. She asked me, “When Sam graduates, may I wear the number and dress in the locker that Sam occupies in our locker room?” What a testimony of Sam’s character! She epitomizes toughness, courage, strength and perseverance daily. And, I could not be as proud of anyone as I am of Sam.

After her most recent injury, this past December, Sam has worked very hard and is determined to come back to finish her senior year regardless of what I and others thought might not be in her best interest. Again, this speaks to her passion, commitment and determination to be on the court.

I am so proud to have had the privilege to coach such a fine, determined, hardworking young lady as Sam McColgan. She is as tough as any student athlete whom I have coached. And gender, certainly has no bearing on this comment. We are all excited and looking forward with anticipation of seeing Sam back in uniform and on the court, again finishing her senior year.

On a final note, don’t be surprised when you are sitting in the gym watching the Lady Saints play, and you hear the announcer over the PA system with something that goes like this, “And now, entering the game for the Lady Saints, number 23, Samantha Mc-Col-gan!” (YAY!!!)

Written by Coach Lee Smith, photo courtesy of Briarcrest

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