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Sports and friends ... what really counts! Winning is great and championships are always fun, but the friendships you take with you will remain, long after the last whistle blast is heard.

I often think how lucky I have been in my life. I have a great family, a good job and some wonderful people I am lucky enough to call friends. When I thought about this the other day, I realized that I have met most through sports. Some have been friends since childhood. Others are colleagues or other coaches and officials I have had the pleasure to have worked with. In sports, you share a common bond through the common experiences that are shared with teammates, players under your care and the people in and around the games you come in contact with each day. I don't believe this happens by accident. I believe that each person you come in contact with teaches you something or gives you something that can never be replaced. Friendship and loyalty are part of the sports process. You trust your teammates, your coaches and eventually, yourself!

My best friend of 52 years played on the same little league team that I played on. He was the catcher while I was the pitcher. We became fast friends and since we liked the same things, built a friendship that has lasted a lifetime. I was the best man in his wedding. His mom and my mom took turns feeding us dinner when we were at each other's house. And though we went to different high schools and at times lived far away from each other, there was always the catch up phone call and the planning that would go into our next golf outing, Giants game, or other venture. That's all because two young men became friends in little league and learned to trust each other. I value his friendship and his advice more than anything!

Other friends that have stayed a part of my life played on teams with me in high school. Whether a school team or summer program, these gentlemen have laughed at the same stories and shared many a meal and a drink while telling those stories. My JV basketball coach from high school is still a close friend and confidant! His advice is usually "spot on" and his loyalty and demeanor are something I wish I could pass on to young coaches today. Other men have shared the same vocation and are still a part of my life today. What could be better than that?

I have been very lucky to have one friend who is very well known as a mentor to many a coach, teacher and student athlete. He lists a super bowl winning coach as one his best friends, but always seemed to have time to pass on many words of wisdom to a young athletic director eager for advice. I learned from him that loyalty might be the most important value we learn in our career. I have tried to pass that on to many a young coach as they began their career. Sometimes you just have to step back and give tough advice to a friend. I have a young coach that I know who has a great future. However, he was spending far too much time coaching and was ignoring his future career as an educator. I finally told him that I would not rehire him as a coach until he was in his certification program and making his way through that with good progress. I am pleased to report that he is in the final stages of his teacher/counselor certification process and now should be able to progress up the academic ladder as well as the coaching ranks. That talk was not an easy conversation to have with him. However, he now sees it was necessary and we have become fast friends. I didn't make that idea up. That was taught to me by my long time friend and mentor and I was happy that someone else benefitted from it.

A number of players that I have had the pleasure to have coached have become good friends since their playing days. Watching them grow into fine men has made me proud. One is an actor and a model. He was tough as nails as a player and a born leader. His work ethic was second to none and he often returned to give our team an inspirational talk and he was always well received. I coached three brothers who all became doctors. They played as hard as anyone ever played. They never knew the word quit. Their dad was an outstanding, devoted and caring doctor. Their mom was a very unique lady.. .proud and determined that each of her sons would follow in their father's footsteps. Unfortunately she passed away from the terrible disease of scleroderma. I have been fortunate to see each one graduate medical school and go on to be fine doctors in their own right. I will be attending the youngest brother's wedding in October. They gave far more than they received and their mom would be happy and proud of their accomplishments and of the fine men they have become.

My assistant coach of 16 years was as loyal and as good a friend as someone could have. Never a "yes" man, his suggestions and abilities to work with our players was amazing. He was always positive and supportive of our teams and his skills as a coach were always appreciated by our players and by me.

My secretary who just retired is an amazing lady. She was 73 years young and the rock of our athletic department. Her ability to read people and situations was uncanny and we will all miss her around this athletic department. So many of the people I haven't mentioned that have become such great friends all share the common bond of sports. Friends from my officiating days--whether high school and college--are still a big part of my life. One is now an NFL official, one is retired from college football officiating, while one still referees three sports on a very high level. Some of the best times are when we get together at our favorite Italian restaurant every five or six weeks and share great stories, both new and old.

Maybe some of you still have friends from your school days and, if you played sports, from your playing days. Of all of the things I have written about that sports teaches, maybe none is more important than friendship. The lifelong friendships from the shared experiences have lasted a lifetime for me. This is what our children need to grasp and value. It is our duty to pass that on to them. Winning is great and championships are always fun, but the friendships you take with you will remain, long after the last whistle blast is heard.

Good luck in the coming school year to everyone!


Tom Curry has been an Athletic Director in Bergen County, New Jersey, as well as an adjunct professor in the Wellness and Exercise Science Department at Bergen Community College for 24 years. He has coached high school basketball and golf and was voted Bergen County Basketball Coach of the Year in 2002. He has spoken at the New Jersey Medical Society Sports Symposium and to parent groups on various issues pertaining to youth sports. He was inducted into the NJ Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012.
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Author:Curry, Tom
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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