Fitness,  Grief & Loss,  Health

The Last Athlete

There’s a young man who holds the distinction of being the Last Athlete to work with Coach Dan Potts.

I still remember the first day I sat in the living room with you and Dan, glove in hand, not knowing what to expect that day let alone the years to come.

His name is Lukas. He was a tiny little thing, just on the verge of turning fourteen, when and he and his mom came in for a consultation four years ago. His dedication and commitment to baseball was apparent.

Those first few sessions in the garage were the first time I had really ever learned to push myself. My whole life up to that point I had been told that I was a “hard worker” but I never really learned what it truly meant to work hard until I found myself doing side planks and split squats on the black mats.

In the next three months, despite increasing physical difficulties, Dan worked with Lukas as many times as he could. And after we lost Dan, Lukas kept on working with me.

You see, he was not just the Last Athlete to work with Dan, he was the ONLY athlete to continue training with me after Dan died.

I can look back at these four years and tell myself that I’ve given it my all and I truly believe that. I think he would believe that…. we’ve accomplished so much and I believe that Dan would be proud.

That first terrible year there was not a single workout with Lukas that it didn’t take every ounce of my strength to keep from screaming out loud at the brutal injustice I found myself in the middle of. This dedicated young athlete should never have been deprived of his rightful time with Dan! Whether he knew it or not, I knew it. The physical pain in my heart trying to process that loss in addition to my own was almost unbearable. But I never caved in. Sometimes . . . the minute that door closed behind him though . . .

And even though I knew I was doing a great job of training Lukas, I couldn’t give myself credit for being anything other than an inferior substitute—by way of tragic circumstance—for Dan and his mentoring, coaching and role modeling gifts that had been so valuable to so many young athletes.

But there was someone that knew I was more than just a placeholder for Dan.  Every workout, he worked even harder than the previous workout. After every single workout, “Thanks, Coach.”

There was a day following one of my elbow injuries that you spoke metaphorically about the process of rebuilding muscles, comparing it to adversity. In doing so, you taught me that with each road block (or muscle breakdown) I would come back stronger, and just in saying that simple analogy, you developed a sense of faith not only in myself as an athlete but as a person in general.

The italicized paragraphs are excerpts from a letter Lukas gave me at our last workout.

I wrote this letter to thank you for the years of character development, common sense and pride. There aren’t too many words that can describe the impact of your presence in my life. I’m so proud of the human being that you’ve helped me become.

His name is Lukas. He is a big strong healthy young man, on the verge of entering college, excited about his future and about playing college baseball. He is the Last Athlete to work with Dan Potts.

So for everything that you’ve done . . . thank you.

He is the Athlete who helped me to truly realize the Coach that I am.

Previously published on My Edmonds News

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