18 June 2009

A most difficult day

I am very proud of our soccer team. Last night they experienced a great tragedy and responded appropriately and well.

To help prepare for a tournament this weekend we held an extra practice last night for those who could come. I left the field about 6:50 p.m. to have dinner with two parishioners with whom I will go on a mission work camp next week.

As I was just about to leave the rectory one of the boys called me and told me to come right back to the field; the coach had collapsed on the field a few minutes before and the paramedics were there.

I quickly drove to the field and there learned that two of the boys quickly began CPR as another called 911. The boys continued with CPR until the paramedics arrived.

When the paramedics arrived one of the boys looked through the recent calls on the coaches phone to contact his family. Once he did, one of the mom’s talked with his family members and worked on contacting others.

They reacted very well and just as they should have. I daresay they reacted better than I might have. I am very proud of them.

I anointed the coach as the paramedics brought him to the ambulance and then followed them to the emergency room, praying for him and the boys as the doctors and nurses worked on him.

At one point I was asked to step out of the room in the ER and talk with someone outside. I was surprised to see one of the boy’s mothers surrounded by a good number of the players who had come to the hospital to be with their coach. In fact, I think all of the boys who could came to the hospital. Not only was I surprised; I was impressed and very proud.

After some thirty minutes of work, the medical staff was unable to revive their coach; he died of heat exhaustion.

I spent some time with the coach’s son and his wife and prayed the prayers for the dead with them. When the pastoral ministry staff person arrived, I asked if they would mind if I went back to the boys to pray with them and tell them what happened; they agreed that I should go and be with the boys.

Word was quickly spread to the players who couldn’t be at the hospital and we gathered at 8:45 in the church to pray the prayers for the dead. Most of the boys came, as did a number of parents and alumni. I was again very proud of them.

Coach K as he was called, coached our soccer team a few years back but had to resign the team four years ago, I think, because of his duties with work. He agreed to coach the boys through the summer this year and was awaiting word from his new employer to see if he would be allowed the time to coach the boys for the fall season. We were all hoping he could do so, and I know he was, too.

Soccer was his love and he truly enjoyed coaching our boys. Last season, whenever he could, he would come to the boys’ games to encourage them and offer a few pointers.

He was truly a good man and, though I only knew him a short time, I am grateful to have met him and worked with him. The boys and I both learned a lot from him over the last week and a half.

The boys are insistent that we play the tournament this weekend as planned, in honor of coach. A number of the alumni who are home for the summer will help me coach and their assistance is most welcome and necessary.

Where we go from here I cannot say. I expect they will want to continue with the summer practices and scrimmages as planned; I hope they do.

Please, keep the boys in your prayers, and coach and his family, as well. This will not be easy for the boys. Practice tonight will be a light one – Coach K had already planned it that way. I will talk with the boys a bit more at the beginning before we do a few drills.

My plans are currently be rearranged and are just about all in place. I was to be in Springfield Saturday for the ordination of a class of deacons. As much as I want to be there, I think at this time my presence with the soccer team is more important. I will keep the ordinandi and their families in my prayers.

I was to leave Sunday morning for the work mission camp in Wisconsin, but will now leave on Wednesday in order to attend the funeral. Six of the boys on the team are also going to the work camp. One of the moms kindly offered me the use of her van, which conveniently (?) seats seven people, with room for luggage. This way, at least, the boys will be able to stay for the funeral and still go to the work camp.

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