Every once in a while we are so lucky as to have someone come into our life who sparks our enthusiasm for our passion. They foster and grow the flame into a burning desire. This is the story of one of the men who inspired the passion of running in me. To this day, I can still remember his near perfect stride lapping the track as his blonde hair flew back as he hit the backstretch of our high school track. As our track team would descend the stadium steps down to the surface of the track for afternoon practice, we would see him completing his own workout before practice. We could immediately see the pure joy on his face. As soon as he stepped onto that track, the man lit up. Simply circling that track brought to his face the most genuine of smiles, he was in his element. His name was Coach Gar.
Coach Gar was coming off of his Master’s from Slippery Rock University and had returned to his high school Alma Mater, Seneca Valley Senior High School to be an assistant track coach. One does not become an assistant track coach for a lavish salary or great benefits, they take the position because they have an absolute passion for the sport and love every little thing about it. When I first met him, I was a slacker and had the “goal” of running as a social activity and hoped to get a “pity letter” for my letterman’s jacket. Goofing off in the woods during long runs was far more appealing to me than logging quality miles. These were not exactly ambitious goals to say the least, however, this changed drastically upon meeting Coach Gar my Sophomore year of High School.
Coach Gar was unique because he was capable of producing something that very few people in this world can, infectious enthusiasm. Many are capable of becoming passionate about a sport, but to have the ability to inspire others takes a special person. Everything Coach Gar did was with unbridled enthusiasm. He is one of those people that truly lives life. From an outsider’s point of view he may at times seem a bit over the top, but this is the way life should be lived and one of the many reasons his athletes loved him so much. He would sprint all over the track for us during both meets and practices, encouraging us every step of the way, screaming at the top of his lungs. His favorite phrase was “LETS GOOOOOOO!”, one he would often yell after sprinting ahead of us during workouts he would run with us. You couldn’t help but get a big smile on your face when you saw him. Through his infectious enthusiasm he molded the happiest runners and hardest workers.
I urge you to seek out that which inspires infectious enthusiasm in you whether it be running, cycling, gymnastics, calculus, or any other myriad of activities. There is nothing in your life that will make you happier than following that passion and enthusiasm. Once you find it, seek out the sages, those like Coach Gar, who will serve to foster and grow that enthusiasm in you. Do not waste your time on those who deter you and those who do not understand your pursuit. As a coach now myself, I can only hope to inspire in my athletes what Coach Gar inspired in me. Thank you Coach Gar for spreading your infectious enthusiasm to our team and for helping me to realize the greatest gift I have been given in my life, running. You have helped to shape my path and life more than you will ever know.
Always in Stride,
Song – Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
Quote – “Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.” – Gordon Parks