People involved in athletics for many years tend to be very passionate. They strive for the very best out of those sports with which they are a part and work fervently to make the most out of every event. While there are many people the above describes, there are precious few who take the next step in their passion and are life-changing for all those around them.
Two of these people have been a large part of our communities, and they are receiving the recognition they so richly deserve. Paul Cyr has been inducted into a wrestling coaches hall of fame, and Jeff Reese will have his name, along with that of his wife Carol, attached to the baseball diamond to which they tended for so many years.
Both these men coached their sports for over 30 years and still continue to be involved. It wouldn’t seem right if Paul wasn’t prowling around a wrestling mat or if Jeff didn’t have a field rake in his hand at some point in their respective seasons. I’m sure retirement from full-time coaching was difficult for both, but there couldn’t have been many people who thought they would never see these giants of their sports around wrestling and baseball anymore.
This is that rare virtue, that desire to continue to work even if it’s not as much as before. For so many, retirement means you are done in that realm. But sports seem to keep people around for as long as they roam the earth. That’s part of the magic that fans, athletes, and coaches discover early on.
Coaching is unlike so many other jobs in that much of the time it doesn’t seem like a job. Working with kids to better themselves, not only in the sport but in life, is so rewarding. Granted, you can read stories all the time about how much more difficult coaching is today due to parent interference and less dedication from kids, and that can be true. This is why it will become more and more rare to see people like Paul and Jeff coach at such a high level for so long. Just as a 300-win pitcher in the Major Leagues seems less and less likely, varsity coaches that last 30+ years can be considered an endangered species.
The true measure of a great coach is not found just in wins and losses. Both these men accumulated some great records and accomplished much when you look only at that. However, Paul told me once, when he had achieved some number milestone in wins, that it simply meant he had stuck around long enough to reach that number. There’s some measure of truth to that; after all, you can be a bad coach for 30 years and probably get at least 100 wins in your sport by pure chance.
However, the really outstanding coaches reach some impressive milestones but also have high numbers of athletes who are changed positively because of the coach’s influence. How many wrestlers and baseball players can look back at their time learning under these two gentlemen and say those were some of the best experiences of their lives? I’m going to go out on a pretty sturdy branch here and say that number is larger than the number in the win column.
Here’s something I always admired about Paul and Jeff. If you worked hard for them and showed that you cared about that sport, you were going to get an opportunity. As a former benchwarmer, I could truly appreciate seeing those kids get chances on a varsity mat or field, knowing that it wasn’t always about ability, but sometimes about heart. Why were the numbers generally high in the wrestling and baseball programs during their tenure? I think this played a large role, kids knowing they would get a chance.
Even though I knew zero about wrestling when I got here, I learned a lot about coaching kids from Paul Cyr. We could talk about situations on my basketball team, and he would always have a solution that worked. Coaching transcends the sport; it’s all about teaching kids.
Jeff Reese gave me so much great advice as a coach in his program. I thought I knew a lot about baseball when I got here, but the amount I knew was barely a smidgen of what Jeff had in his head. I was able to coach 7th grade baseball for 13 years in his system and was always treated with respect. He and Carol were effusive in their praise for the program we developed at the junior high level and always made the job a lot easier.
I got to watch a video of Paul giving his acceptance speech, and I got the feeling that this was the same man who had coached all those years and that he would never change, which is tremendous. Staying true to your philosophy is increasingly more difficult in today’s sports world, but Paul Cyr will not waver, and there are many young men indebted to him for shaping their lives.
I’m so pleased that Jeff and Carol will have the baseball diamond at Legion Field named after them. I hope the sun is shining and that many of his former players are able to make it this Saturday to honor this couple who represent baseball in our area better than anyone. I wish I could be there, Jeff, to add my applause to all those others. But, shockingly, I’ll be on a ballfield watching my daughter and preparing to get my son’s team ready for their season, carrying on a legacy that you helped create.
Word of the Week: This week’s word is irresolute, which means uncertain, as in, “The athlete was anything but irresolute about playing for the hall of fame coach.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!