I don’t care who knows it, but that was me running down the graduation line last month taking selfies with my athletes. My Facebook page and Twitter feeds have every cheesy photo in case you want to verify this – it is not “fake news”.
I don’t care if you think I am unprofessional. Because it’s my job to help our students maneuver through tough situations and decisions; and I helped this particular group to the best of my ability over a four year stretch. It was through those tough situations and tough conversations that I learned a lot about this group of “kids” that makes me proud.
I don’t care if you think I am a nerd. If you spent a day with me, or four years in our program, you will find out I like this term anyways and use it quite frequently. But this group of young men and women worked harder in the classroom than they did on the course or the track. An argument can be made that they accomplished more academically in their four years than any other group of seniors we have coached. So call me a nerd; I love it. This group will have future teachers, future business leaders and leaders in the medical field. They will be changing the world around them.
I don’t care if you think I wear my emotion on my sleeve. As I stated earlier, I have been through some tough times with this group. I’ve cried with them, prayed with them, run with them, eaten cold pizza in hotel lobbies with them and spent hours talking about family and life. We’ve helped each other through broken hearts, personal bests and season ending injuries. That’s powerful.
During the first few weeks of May, this group embarked on a new adventure. They quickly morphed into adults heading out into the real world. One piece of paper and a flip of the tassel and four years of hard work finally came to an end. But for that amazing group of seniors it truly is a beginning. This is the beginning of the rest of their lives and that’s why it was a great day.
While out on the recruiting trail a few weeks after graduation, I had the chance to meet with three alumni at a track meet in West Virginia. I spent a couple of hours with the three of them at different points in the day. I left that venue so proud of the men and women they have become. They are amazing coaches and are passing on their wisdom and their passion of the sport to the next generation of student-athletes. I am glad to have been able to be a part of their journey.
Like them, this senior class will step out into the real world and have a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. I think that’s why I like this coaching thing so much – and why I am really enjoying being Madison’s dad. Each and every day I have a chance to help those athletes, and my daughter, be a better person and make a difference in this world.
To the class of 2017, I wish you the very best. You are going to accomplish some great things – so set the bar high and don’t settle when you reach the peak. Set the bar higher and get to work. And, I am always a phone call away. Maybe that “selfie” will pop up on my phone when you call.
Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.