On Saturday, we recognized our senior football players prior to our last regular season game. One of those seniors, Zelin “Aiden” Chen, who was unable to return for his senior season due to COVID, attended the ceremony at 1am over 12,000 miles away on a Zoom call. While the best I could offer is a “virtual hug,” we did our best to reinforce our appreciation for his contributions to the team. Below is the email I received after our game:
“Coach, after the recognition, I just kept watching the videos that I recorded from Zoom over and over again, tears just came out of my eyes, I just can’t stop missing you guys. ☹ Last night in my dream, I was warming up with my teammates on the field and getting ready for the LI game, although I forgot all the details, but we won the game just like we always did. Just hope I can do more for the team, just let you know, Aiden Chen is always here and ready to do everything for the team. Thank you coach, you taught me a lot, when I was a new student in the dorm, you and Mrs. Alercio were always help me. Playing football is the best decision I have ever made. The team made me feel like home, every time when I fell down on the ground, there was always a lovely hand in front of me. The relationships in this big family are like the sunshine after rain, just always keep touching and warming my heart. I can still remember once in practice, when we were doing the lineman steps, after finishing all the steps, you suddenly pointed at me and your face looked so serious that I was so nervous about what I did, however, I saw a big smile on your face, “Aiden, you are pretty good on those steps.” And after the practice you said to everyone in the team “Aiden Chen had a great practice today.” Because of your encouragement, I began trying harder and harder on every drill, every practice and every game. What’s more, because of your motivation, I lost 80 pounds right now, during the summer, I knew I couldn’t be professional but being on the varsity has been an honor for me, so it has been my motivation in the gym. I know I’m not the best one in the team, but this team means a lot to me. I am so upset I can’t be physically on the team this year but thank you very much for letting me participate virtually today. I MISS you coach, I miss all the memories with you, Mrs. Alercio, Trey and JJ! I can’t wait to go back to StJ, bring the best tea to you, we can sit on the couch in Green Dorm, having a cup of tea, watching an exciting football game. Good luck with the game. Thank you for EVERYTHING! And I hope everything is good with you.“
Thank you Aiden for so perfectly encapsulating what is most important about playing and coaching football. While we left the field that day with a victory over our rivals, the true reward of the job came after I got home, settled in, and read this email with tears in my eyes.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!