Coach Lee's JPII Saints'

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It’s a chilly Minnesotan Monday morning in October. The sun has just risen in the east as I walk the half mile to Bottineau Park for an 8 a.m. soccer practice. As I walk through the neighborhoods, I ponder the day ahead of me with a rosary in hand. On this particular day, we are working on trapping and passing skills. As I arrive, there is a group of players alternating penalty kick shots on the goal. I gather all the kids to send them on a two lap warm-up jog around the soccer field. After their warm up jog, we start stretching before the drills. We do our drills for 20-30 minutes followed by a 15 minute scrimmage. Around 9:20 a.m., practice ends and Coach Bob and I walk the students back to St. John Paul II Catholic School in time for start of the school day at 9:45 a.m. It is a short ten minute walk back and the students enjoy each other’s friendship as they prepare for the school day. 

This is a glimpse of what a typical soccer practice looks like. I’ve been blessed to be the assistant coach of the JPII Saints co-ed varsity team, grades 6-8th. They are a talented group of athletes with a wide variety of skill. The team received 3rd place in the Msgr. Coates Youth Organization (MYCO) League this past season. However, the success of the team was not the most important part of coaching. As coach, the most important thing I could do was to love these student-athletes as Jesus Christ loves them. 

Coaching gave me an opportunity to build relationships with students outside of the classroom. This relationship was formed around the game of soccer. As a coach, I built relationships with students that I could not have done inside the classroom. I was able to teach these student-athletes the same life lessons that are taught in school—lessons such as teamwork, sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity, fairness, and humility. Coaching gave me an opportunity to reach my students in different ways. In school, I’m usually called Mr. Lee, or Mr. Bruce J. Lee, nicknamed after martial artist Bruce Lee. At practices and games, I was someone different to the student-athletes. I was Coach Lee.

Stephen Barnhart