Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TRIBUTE TO MY COACH

As I think about all the things that have been possible in my athletic career, I am humbly aware that none of it would've been possible without my coach Brooks Johnson. That's why it was so great over the weekend to be able to tell him that in person. Prompted by my reader Jim and Garret, I thought I would post an excerpt from my speech that I gave on Friday night so everyone can know just how highly I think of Brooks.


"Without this next person, where would I have ever gotten were it not for the faith and belief that my he had in me and my ability? Brooks Johnson was my coach for my four years at Stanford and he flew all the way here from Orlando to attend this function tonight and so I just wanted to say a personal thank you to him for doing that. I’d have to say that our relationship was somewhat tumultuous for the first two years that I was here. Anyone who knows Brooks knows that he is a no-nonsense kind of guy. Let’s just say, he expects your best and nothing less...

...Between my gaining more than the freshman 15 in my first two years and two knee surgeries in that same period, many people would have lost faith in me. But Brooks and his wife Betsy, who was my jumps coach at the time, held steadfast to their belief that I was the best collegiate long jumper period. Through his encouragement, his wisdom and his ability to instill confidence in a girl who was overweight, far from home and unsure of herself, I went from not even qualifying for the NCAA championship meet in my first two years, to a 2nd place finish in my junior year, to a top 10 finish at my first Outdoor world championships held in Osaka, Japan that same year and to being the indoor and outdoor NCAA champion in my senior year.

I would’ve never dreamed of it, but he did. He always did. I’m so grateful to you Brooks for molding me and preparing me for the road that lay ahead. Who knew that 5 Olympics, 9 world championships, the Stanford school record which still stands today, my national record and numerous accolades later, Brooks would still be the one standing there waiting for me when I walked off the track in Beijing this past summer full of dejection and disappointment.

When I was ready to break into a million pieces, he told me that there was a bigger picture. That my career and my life were not to be defined by that one performance. That there are some things like sickness and misfortune that I can’t control. That the sum of who I am is greater than my failures. That I am many things, none of which can be witnessed on a track or measured in feet and inches. That I should be proud of all that I have accomplished in my career.

I think by the time he was done talking to me, I had a momentary lapse in reality, thinking that perhaps I had won or something. Just kidding. But seriously, if it were not for his presence there that day, perhaps I might still be somewhere hiding my head in despair and so for that and everything else you’ve done for me and with me, I say thank you. I owe the joys and the thrills that I’ve experienced over the years as a professional track and field athlete to you and you’d never know just how much that means to me."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said about Brooks! He was my coach at the University of Florida 32 years ago. I think about his life's lessons and what he meant to me everyday. My wife and I were fortunate to have had lunch with him a few weeks ago here in Miami.
Well said and Congratulations!

Mizrepresent said...

What a beautiful tribute! I don't know this man, but from your words alone...i know of his great strength and beauty!

Jim and Garret said...

Well done Jackie. Thanks for posting that speech, it was worth the wait.

I kid you not, my word verification is: tracksty

If that speech was directed to me, I would have cried.

-Garret-

Jackie E. said...

Anonymous: Small world! You really have to know him to fully appreciate him. You can't helped but to be changed in one way or another by his influence and knowledge.

Miz: Thanks...

Jim and Garret: Uncanny?? that that was your word verification, lol!

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

sounds like a fine man
have a gr8 weekend

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Anirudh said...

Awesome blog ! Thats why it's become a blog of note!

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