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I had Katelyn on my JV team her sophomore year back in 2008. She was the perfect player to have in our program. She was loved and respected by her coaches and teammates alike for her athletic ability, work ethic, attitude and character. During her junior year of Cross Country, she went through an incredibly painful injury. She tore the growth plate on her hip and missed the rest of Cross Country season and her entire basketball season.
By her senior year, I had stepped up to be the varsity coach and Katelyn was left with the challenge of competing in her first year at the varsity level after having missed all of her junior season.
Our starting point guard had graduated the year before and we had no one able to fill that role. As I looked at who we had on the varsity team, Katelyn was the most obvious choice to step into that position. I still remember the look on her face when I asked her to be our floor leader. “Uhhhh…OK.” She stammered.
“Katelyn, I know that you have never been a point guard before, but the coaching staff all talked it over and you are the best choice for it.”
“Coach Powers, I am willing to do whatever is best for our team.”
With that response Katelyn solidified the job.
She did amazingly well for not only her first year being point guard, but also her first year on varsity. She was also our best defender and every game I would put her on the other team’s leading scorer. Many times she would hold them way under their scoring average. Her defensive foot-work was impeccable and her longer arms caused all kinds of trouble for the opposing players when they tried to pass the ball around her.
One of my favorite Katelyn moments came when, early in the year, we were playing the Parkview Vikings, coached by my friend Tina Aasen. (Parkview went on to win the conference that year.)
They were leaving Katelyn open for three pointers so I told her she needed to start taking those shots.
“Are you sure Coach Powers?”
“Yes I am sure. I know you can hit them, so if they keep leaving you open, you nail it.”
It seemed like every time Parkview started to pull away from us, Katelyn made a long three pointer to pull us back into the game. They had stopped our inside game with their zone, but Coach Aasen extended their zone out even farther to try and keep Katelyn from hitting those long 3’s. We always talk about taking what the defense gives you, and the defense was giving Katelyn a wide open shot least 10 feet behind the 3-point arc. (Normally that coaching axiom wouldn’t apply here.) However, Katelyn was bubbling over with confidence so from 30 feet away she launched a shot with about 10 seconds left and swished it to bring us within 2 points of the champions.
As our teams walked across the gym floor to head to the locker rooms for half time, Coach Aasen walked up next to me and said, “Where in the heck did #22 come from? She is hitting 4 pointers out there! I don’t remember seeing her play last year!”
I just smiled at her and told her she was our secret weapon…
A point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor and she has to make a lot of in game decisions on the fly. Katelyn did everything I asked of her and then some.
I have had few young ladies come through our program with the work ethic, discipline, and leadership ability that Katelyn shows in her life. No one our team worked harder than she did. Her self-motivation was unbelievable and she inspired those around her to play harder, without her having to say a single word to them. She earned the love and respect of all her teammates and coaches and that of the opposing team.
As much as I enjoyed having Katelyn on the floor as my point guard it was the one game she didn’t play that year that showed me what she was truly made of.
It was Tuesday January 26, 2010 and we were playing Edgerton that night. We were pretty evenly matched with them and had a good shot of winning that game. However, Katelyn wasn’t on the floor that night. She wasn’t hurt or sick, nor was she sitting out for any kind of disciplinary reason. No, she missed the game that night because she chose to.
As a coach, you never want to go in a game without your full team. However, this night, I totally understood why she chose what she did. You see, she wanted to be there for her best friend who had just tragically lost her father. The visitation was scheduled the night of our game and Katelyn approached me at practice to ask if it was OK if she missed the game to stand along side her friend as she grieved that night.
It was a no brainer decision for me. There are so many things in life that are more important than sports and this was at the top of the list.
We went to the very beginning of the visitation as a team before we caught the bus to our game. I remember how proud I was of Katelyn as she stood by her friend. As I walked out of the church that night, I glanced back and saw her friend put her head on Katelyn’s shoulder, close her eyes and squeeze some of the pain out via huge crocodile tears.
Katelyn was a fiercely loyal friend and she learned one of life’s great lessons… “Shared joy is double joy; Shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
To further illustrate that Katelyn and her friends really got it in life, was what happened the morning that her friend's father passed away. Kristi and I received a phone call and we were asked if we would be willing to come over to the house and just help the many teens that were gathered there that morning as they all processed what had happened.
We walked into the house and the first thing that we noticed was that all 20 or so teenagers were just sitting in silence. Kristi and I walked into the living room area and we just sat there with them without saying a word. The two sisters who had lost their father would cry and grieve and the teens comforted them with a hug, a hand on their back or by lending a shoulder to cry on. None of them tried to explain away the pain and no one was trying to tell them that things were going to be OK. They just grieved with them. They were a steady presence that lent this hurting family their strength.
Eventually the sisters starting sharing the good memories they had of their dad and for the next couple of hours, Katelyn and her friends provided something that most adults don’t figure out: That in times like these, no words need to be said. Just your presence is necessary.
My wife and I kept in touch with Katelyn as she went off to college to get her education and compete in Cross Country.
We continued to keep in touch after she was done with her schooling and we randomly ran into her at the movie theaters here in Janesville on New Year’s Eve night in 2014. She was just leaving the movie theater and she introduced us to the young man she was with. A kind-hearted handsome guy named Ian Harris. Kristi and I spent the next 20 minutes telling Ian how amazing Katelyn was and how much we loved, admired and respected her. We covered everything we thought this dapper young man should know about our Katelyn. We told him what an amazing athlete she was, how loving, kind and considerate she was and what an incredible leader she was because she had learned that to be a leader was to be a servant of others. We told him how she did everything in her life with excellence. Most importantly we talked of how she was living her life for the Lord and that she wanted to touch the lives of other people in whatever she did.
Then Kristi said this, “I can see already that you two are a good match.”
They looked at us nervously but continued the conversation for a few more minutes. We hugged Katelyn good-bye, told Ian it was nice to meet him and then went in to watch our movie.
Katelyn called us later and explained that, although she had known Ian for some time, that was their first official date! Poor Ian. Talk about some pressure already in the relationship!
Their relationship blossomed and they got engaged exactly a year later.
I vividly remember the voice mail I got from Katelyn about a week after that.
“Hi Coach Powers! This is Katelyn Harsevoort calling. I just wanted to talk to you about something whenever you have time to call me back. I am available anytime after 4:30 during the week. I know this is your day off so sorry for calling you on a Saturday. I hope everything is going great and hope to talk to you soon! Bye!” (I still have it saved on my voice mail at church!)
As soon as I heard her message I knew that she must have gotten engaged and I was hoping that she was calling to ask me if I would be the officiant at her wedding! (My full time job is being a youth pastor.)
I called her back and that was indeed what she wanted to talk about. They set their date for later that summer and I may have cried a little when I got off the phone with her. It meant so much to Kristi and I that Katelyn and Ian wanted us to be a part of their wedding day,.
What a privilege and honor it was to counsel with them in the months leading up to their big day, to lead them through their vows and to get to say to everyone there, “Ladies and Gentleman, it is my great honor and privilege to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Ian Harris!”
It was an amazing day for an amazing couple.
Within the next year or so, they expressed an interest in helping out and serving with us in youth ministry and I told them that there was nothing that would make me happier than to have them along side us investing in the lives of teens.
They do an amazing job of teaching, leading small group discussions and just plain loving on those students who they come into contact with.
We have really enjoyed just doing life together with them. From the really hard stuff that they have had to deal with, to the times where we all laugh until our sides hurt.
This past summer they had to take a temporary step back from youth ministry. Why, you may ask? Well, God blessed them with a beautiful baby boy. How precious it was for Kristi and I to sit in their living room and hold this precious gift from God! We get to see him almost every Sunday and he gets cuter and cuter every week!
We are looking forward to what God has in store for Ian, Katelyn and their growing family and I am so incredibly thankful for the life-long relationships that develop through coaching.
This is why I coach. For the relationships that are made through sports. Relationships with players, opposing coaches/players, athletic directors, principals, referees, custodians, bus drivers, sports reporters, score keepers and those fans who truly understand what sports are all about.
Of course we throw our whole hearts into preparing our teams to win games, but be classy about it.. We spend endless hours on practice plans, game films, scouting, coaching clinics, etc. We put the best team on the floor to give our schools a chance to be victorious each and every contest. However, none of that matters if we coach in such a way that most of our players never want to see us again.
Coaching has always been and should always be less about the wins and losses and more about building into the lives of those we have the honor to have on our teams…
Katelyn, you will never ever know how much your love and kindness has meant to Kristi and I over the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many ways you showed us love, honor and respect. What a joy it has been coaching you and watching you grow into the godly young woman that you have become. What an amazing example you are to the young ladies in our youth ministry in how you conduct yourself, how you and Ian love each other with an unconditional love and how tirelessly you serve as a mom. We are so incredibly proud of you both!
I am a better person because you have been in my life and I am still coaching because God may still yet have a few more “Katelyns” he wants me to cross paths with.
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” – Philippians 1:3
P.S. If you have ever coached a "Katelyn" share this post with them!
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Michael T. Powers
Copyright © 2019 by Michael T. Powers
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Michael T. Powers, the founder of HeartTouchers.com and Heart4Teens.com, is the youth minister at Faith Community Church in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart Kristi and proud father of three boys.
He is also an author with stories in 32 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." To preview his book or to join the thousands of world wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.hearttouchers.com
Most importantly, Michael believes that life is not about religion, but about a relationship -- a relationship with Jesus Christ.
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