The Power and Friendship of a Coach
Can a coach / mentor make a difference in your life? The answer is a resounding YES. Some make a tremendous difference for the GOOD. A more select group of coaches make a tremendous long term difference for the GREAT.
Forty years ago, my coach, Audley Hewett, saw my moderate talent combined with my unlimited drive and went on to coach me as a club and high school player for the next 3 years. One might have expected that the end of my high school senior season would have been the end of our mentor / player relationship. As it turned it, it was only the early beginning.
I regret not documenting every time that I have spoken to my awesome coach and friend – Audley Hewett. It would have provided the outline for a wonderful book as to how a coach can make such a wonderful difference in the life of a person. I should also point out up front that my coach was brought to me in the form of a team and family. Team Hewett consists of Audley and his wonderful wife Shelly Hewett. Family Hewett consists of their three children (Wayne, Kevin, and Natasha). Wayne and Kevin were my teammates at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. They had a bit more skill and finesse on the pitch (field) and also had the lovely flowing Jamaican accent to go with it. Natasha, a few years younger than the team, was always cheering from the sideline.
Moving into my college years, I would visit Audley and Shelly in the summers. Back in the old days (pre-internet), there were also a number of cards and letters exchanged. In college and law school, I carried with me the life lessons and words of support of Coach Hewett. I still played some soccer with the crowning achievement in the form of the campus soccer championship won by my fraternity – Lambda Chi Alpha. For most of my playing career, I was a winger until Coach Hewett put me on defense as a better use of my skills. Due in part to my solid defensive play for Lambda Chi Alpha, we won that championship. Of course, I was surrounded by some excellent talent including my buddy Patrick Pierce in the goal. Whenever I returned home during my college and law school days, I would return for visits to see Audley and Shelly. Over the years, they said that they were my Jamaican parents. I never quite mastered the accent or all of the expressions. I also never gravitated to liking some of the food or drink of the Caribbean like Ginger Beer. However, I did always gravitate back to Audley and Shelly for the friendship, advice, and just the lift to my spirits any time that I felt down.
Then, I became a practicing attorney and eventually made my way back to Miami after a few years practicing in the Panhandle. I got back to my roots in Miami connecting with my high school friends and enjoying the familiarity of the food, fun, and awesome spots of South Florida. Of course, the Hewetts were there as always with a smile, sage advice, and that consistent infusion of positive support. Along the way, good fortune and a bit of luck connected me with Robin Bloom who I briefly dated in high school. Within a year, we were engaged and then 8 months later married. We had a wonderful wedding ceremony at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The event would not have been complete without the presence of Audley and Shelly Hewett. That’s right, my high school soccer coach and his wife came to my wedding.
The friendship continued through the years. Fast forward to my son’s Bar Mitzvah in 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida, Audley and Shelly Hewett were sitting in the middle of the Synagogue beaming with pride as Matthew read from the Torah and spoke about the passage with a certain confidence and proficiency that made us very proud. At Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah, I gave a speech and thanked everybody for being there and especially the Hewetts. I presented Matthew with a soccer ball that had some messages / attributes on the ball to pass on some of the advice and wisdom provided to me through the years by Coach Hewett. At the age of 13, Matthew was already putting hard work and sportsmanship into action. By the way, the “10” on the ball represents the 10 Commandments and the “613” on the ball represents the 613 Commandments in the Torah.
As Matthew progressed in competitive and travel soccer, there were some games and tournaments in South Florida. Who came to watch Matthew play? That’s right Coach Hewett. He provided Matthew with some tips to master his play. Ultimately, Matthew went on to captain his high school team, to lead his high school team to a District Championship, and then to be named on the All Clay County Team.
Just recently (July 10, 2020) – over 40 years since I was that short, underweight, and speedy winger – I got a phone call from Audley and Shelly Hewett to check on me. They wanted to know how things were in North Florida and to see how Robin, Matthew, and Megan were doing. We had a nice chat about the challenges of COVID-19 and the need to be careful and safe out there.
I often listen to Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits. What a talent! I probably am drawn to this music because of my teenage years in Miami with my coach and the rest of the Caribbean players on my team (who were all better soccer players than me). Audley and Shelly Hewett always seemed to give me the right advice and support like in the Bob Marley song Three Little Birds:
Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
As you can see, a coach can make a positive difference that can last for decades. I am very thankful that I was good enough as a soccer player to make the club and high school team coached by Audley Hewett. I am even more thankful and blessed to have Audley and Shelly Hewett as my mentors, friends, and positive influencers for over 40 years of my life.
The Good Deed Brigade salutes Audley and Shelly Hewett and other people out there making the community a better place and for inspiring others to do their part as well.
Remember, wherever you see the Good Deed Brigade, it’s all good.