What we learn from people we used to teach?
I headed into San Antonio for a special occasion. I was headed into town to surprise two of my former players, Nick Allen and Lucas O’Brien both members of the University of Texas San Antonio basketball team. Both of these guys played for me and hold a special place in my heart for several different reasons. What was even more unique about this situation is that neither player knew I was coming and I had been working with Lucas’ mom to set up my tickets and plan for the surprise. It was Senior night and it would be the only college game I would be able to see Lucas play and to my delight neither player would disappoint in the game with the heart and effort, both things I always stressed with both.
I have coached Lucas since he was a little guy and watching him develop as a player and a man has been one of my great pleasures as a coach. I remember at points during his career where people doubted if he was good enough to play at a major university. I would say by his resume, he has proved all of them wrong and has made many of us proud. While we are all proud of him, it is who he has become as a student, a future husband, and a man that makes me the most proud.
During the 2012-2013 season Lucas was sidelined with a Heart Condition. After a few surgeries and months of recovery, Lucas was able to rejoin his team as an inspiration. In the following article Lucas was quoted as saying “Over the years, I’ve learned how to trust the process and find my purpose.”
Read the article here: https://www.utsa.edu/today/2017/02/lucas-obrien.html
What is amazing about this situation is that it would have been easy for Lucas to give up, come home to Arizona, and just say it wasn’t meant to be. Instead he trusted in the process and allowed his passion for basketball to be a vessel that would allow him to overcome. After the game as I was speaking to Lucas’ dad, Brian, and he said “Lucas actually said it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was able to get a medical redshirt, graduate in 4 years, finish his masters, and during that time he found the love of his life whom he is set to marry this spring.”
It is that type of outlook that makes Lucas such a special kid and an inspiration to a coach. His success on the court and in the classroom has proved to put him in a special category as a student-athlete, but it is his soul that makes him such a unique kid. Hang out with Lucas for 5 minutes and you will feel his energy and the goodness in his heart.
In the past, Lucas and his family would say that he looked up to me, but in reality he is the one that I look up to in awe and hope that even at 35 I can achieve the peace that he has in his heart and soul. Thank you Lucas!!!
Nick Allen, a sophomore from Surprise, AZ, played for my Arizona Magic team a couple years ago. I only coached Nick for one season, but in that season he has left an impact on me that he doesn’t even realize. Since the first time I met Nick, I knew that he has a special talent as a basketball player. His drive and basketball IQ was on another level that succeeded most players; he was athletic, he was skilled, and he had a fire about him when he played. Through my year with Nick, I quickly learned that we both suffered from the same fear and issue as a player. He questioned himself and his ability and it impacted him as a player when he was on the floor. He would always play hard and he would do things that you would say “wow, that kid can ball,” but there were times where you could see him get frustrated and question whether he was good enough. We would all harp on him and tell him about his ability and potential and what we all saw, but in the end he has to see it for himself. I was the exact same way as a player and even as a person and I still struggle with seeing my own value and self worth and sometimes just fake it until I make it. Nick earned a scholarship to UTSA and it was a fight from the get go, the staff had to fight to get him into school because of his grades and go to bat for him with the administration. When it was all said and done, he got in and he has begun to flourish on the court, but more importantly as a man.
After the game, I took a 45 minute car ride back and forth with Nick to Lucas’ Senior Day Celebration party at his future in-laws gorgeous home. During that car ride I was amazed at Nick and how he has matured and grown during his two years at UTSA.
The one thing about Nick is that from the exterior he is rough around the edges with his beard and tattoos that run up and down his arm (like me there will be more to come of those). It is easy to look at Nick and make a quick judgement of who he is, but after a few minutes you quickly realize that the kid has a heart as big as his game!
Nick was sharing the good and bad experiences of college, the struggles he has had, the successes he has had (only kid out of 5 kids in his recruiting class left at UTSA, and they said he was the one that could’t make it in college), and the relationships he has formed. He started talking about his girlfriend and the impact she has had on his life, the focus she has given him as a student, as an athlete, and as the person he wants to become.
As I sat there listening to Nick, I started to realize the importance that certain individuals can make on our life’s journey and how profound these relationships can be, even if people don’t understand the impact they are making. I started thinking about people in my life that have come and gone and ones that have stayed. They all have had an impact on my life in some way; some big, some small, some massive, some negative, and some positive. It is what we take from these relationships and how we utilize them in our life journey that matters. It is the lessons we learn from people we come in contact with and how we take those lessons and either use them or push them off to the side.
We get back from dinner and of course Nick with his huge heart, offers me some left over pizza and the couch to sleep on. In the morning we plan on going to the tattoo parlor together, but his tattoo artist was out of town. Instead we grabbed breakfast at his favorite spot, chatted for another hour about life, basketball, future goals, and passions and I headed out on the next leg of my journey. If Nick reads this he will realize the impact he had in 24 hours with an old coach, who he says he looked up too. He, just like Lucas, is a kid that I admire and I look up to for what he has overcome, who he is becoming, and who he will become in the future.
I went to watch a ball game and instead I got schooling on LIFE.
watch the video of me surprising Lucas!