Saturday Memories 😊
Inspiration today comes from Isaiah 40: 28-31
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall into exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
Earlier this week, my high school Cross Country coach, Harry Howell, passed from this life into the arms of Jesus. I had two coaches during my high school tenure that purposely shaped my life. Coach Howell was one of them. His goofy sense of humor and classic “one liners” provided for interesting times on the Cross Country course, but what I remember most about Coach was his heart. I know that our antics drove him crazy. But, he loved us anyway. I don’t remember all my times or places from the years that I ran for him. But, I remember that he had our backs – that we could always count on him to show up for us – and that he valued us not just as athletes but as people. He never gave up on us. I don’t think that I properly valued these things at the time, but I still carry them with me thirty years later.
Coach Howell was famous for his “one liners”. He just kind of stuck them into the middle of conversations, and then turned them into “learning moments” (AKA lectures). My favorite was Murphy’s Law. Coach was a bit of a worrier. My freshman and junior years, multiple members of our team were competing in the Florida State Swimming Championship meet the night before we competed in the Florida State Cross Country Championships. Coach loved us and knew that we loved both sports, so he supported us as we “doubled up” during the fall season. But, the notion that we were going to compete in two different places in two consecutive days caused him to fret a bit. One day at practice, we got the Murphy’s Law lecture. I remember the look on his face as he stood there with his hands on his hips and said, “Ladies – Murphy’s Law prevails. We have to be prepared that anything that can wrong will go wrong.”
Fortunately, we held Murphy’s Law at bay as we brought home hardware both in the pool and on the Cross Country course (team Cross Country State Titles (1989 and 1991) 🙂
Another one of Coach Howell’s famous “one liners” was, “It’ll put hair on your chest”. Whenever things were hard, he reminded us girls of this interesting thought. We laughed, shook our heads, and muttered that coach might be a bit crazy. But, his well-timed comment broke the tension and taught us that the truly meaningful things in life were the hard things. We learned from Coach that we could do hard things together.
My life has taken a series of twists and turns since I was a member of Coach Howell’s Cross Country and Track teams. Murphy’s Law took on a new twist as I learned to manage a cattle feedyard and care for animals on the farm while Mother Nature’s wrath simultaneously “put hair on my chest”. The years have gone by, but memories of Coach Howell surface often as I spend time as a coach in my community. Ask any one of my athletes about Coach Anne, and I’m sure that you’ll hear a story or two about my own “one liners” 🙂
Today, our Cross Country team had it’s first meet of the 2021-2022 season. As we huddled up to prepare for a race, one of our runners shared the above scripture verse from Isaiah. It made me think of Coach Howell and how he inspired us to run strong and not grow weary. Of how, when we believe in ourselves and the Lord who created us, that we soar high on wings like eagles. I’m pretty sure that Coach Howell underestimated the impact that he had on his runners’ lives. I hope that he knew in his heart that we loved him – that we ran fast not just for our Lord and ourselves, but also for him.
I don’t know how many athletes Coach mentored over his lifetime, but I do know that his impact was far-reaching. Today, it still lands into the hearts of runners almost 2000 miles away from Cardinal Newman High School as his legacy of love and “one liners” continues on through me in Cozad, Nebraska. Please help me to lift up Coach Howell and his family in prayer and thanksgiving as we honor a great man.