Will You Leave a Youth Sports Legacy Behind?

Here are a few great examples of those whose dedication will be remembered. Who comes to mind in your town?

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. 
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I’ve often thought about my own legacy. A couple of weekends ago I was serving meatballs to a hungry group of high school football players. Someday — maybe while serving something to someone — they’ll remember the annoying guy with the dumb Italian accent asking, “Do you want-ah two ah-meat-ah-ball-ahs, or three ah-meat-ah-ball-ahs?”

While I don’t think most of us — we sporting parent types — serve up our free time with the thoughts of legacies dripping from our ladles, it can be an offshoot of our dedication.

Greg Warren volunteered to build concession stands, dugouts, press boxes, and anything else that a hammer and nails could pull together. The new Farmington High School field house was constructed and named in his memory.

When the late Ed Beardsley wanted a place in Bristol for his son and four other disabled children to play baseball, the idea for a Little League Challenger Division was born. It now serves 300,000 physically and mentally challenged boys and girls worldwide.

As the patriarch of youth baseball in West Hartford, Ken Hungerford has a tournament and concession stand bearing his name. More than 50 years of dedication can do that to a guy.

The late Tom Sheridan was involved for many years with Glastonbury Youth Football and the Glastonbury High School Friends of Football. He is a past recipient of the Contribution to Football Award from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for his lifelong commitment to youth football.

Local legends don’t usually have an entire baseball complex named after them … well not while they’re still living. Bill Petit of the Berlin Little League earned it as league president, umpire, and visionary.

As a youth lacrosse pioneer in Southington, the late Ken Vilar helped start the town’s youth lacrosse association and get the high school team on its feet.

“If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? — Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, Carpe Diem, seize the day, boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

For every name in bold, there are countless others you’ll never read about. But they are all around us. They come with hammers and shovels, words and ideas — with money or time or both. They leave everything. They often shun attention.

Our local youth sports programs cannot — will not — breathe without the men and women past and present who didn’t need to consider if they’d be remembered in bold someday.

I read the following quote last year at a youth sports banquet. It exemplifies the rewards of self-sacrifice. In the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, Mr. Holland has been forced into retirement by budget cuts to the music program after 35 years as a teacher. Before leaving the school for the last time, his wife and son lead him into the auditorium. It’s jammed with many of his students from the past. They await one last guest. A former student — once awkward and shy — enters and makes her way to the podium. Now the governor of the state, she addresses her mentor and the audience.

Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn't rich and he isn't famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.”

Your legacy, as it pertains to youth sports, can be made right outside your door — down the street, at the field, in the gym. It’s asking for you to come out and play. Can you hear it?

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike

nancy September 14, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Ron, Thank you for honoring my late father-in-law's legacy. We all know that people who do things like this don't do it for glory. They see a need and fill it or create it. I am going to pass this along via facebook.
Anne September 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM
In Bristol at the McCabe WatersLittle league there is a field named after my brother Dave Greenelaf. He is still very much involved in most sporting events in the city of Bristol and this is just a small token that the town has done for him for all he has done for them!!!
EH Mom September 15, 2012 at 06:33 AM
Brian Nedley coached his son's Little League team to two undefeated seasons in East hampton, NY. He vowed to take the entire team out for pizza after every win and did just that. He picked up and brought home a car full of players every practice and every game because parents had to work late or pull double shifts. Last year he moved to Connecticut with his family, wishing he could take his team with him. He does not have a field named after him or a tournament or concession stand. However, there are twelve boys, now young men, who have an everlasting sense of pride and joy in their hearts, the knowing that practice, commitment, a positive attitude and teamwork are the foundation of not only competition sports but true and lasting friendships. And every once in a while, one of these young men will post on Facebook: "We miss you Coach" .
chris Beardsley September 18, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Hey Ron, Great article! I really appreciate you mentioning my Dad and honoring his achievements and his impact on youth sports.
Ron Goralski September 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
It proves that we can all do our part in making our own little piece of the world a better place. In your dad's case, it has now spread throughout the world. And in each community it took another individual to grab the baton and run with it. It's truly amazing when you stop to think about it.


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