I was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2016. I was coaching a U16 girls’ team at the time. At first I noticed my right leg was weak after I had pulled a muscle in my back. Well my back healed but not the leg and the weakness started to spread up my right side.
At the beginning of November I was no longer able to travel. With the help of the internet I’ve been able to keep in close contact with the team. I can no longer attend practices or games but my manager and parents live steam games for me.
One big thing I’ve learned from this life lesson was that I took myself way too seriously as far as win and losses go to define success. And what a perfect season would be.
In March of 2016 I went to my primary care doctor who then started a long journey that included two MRI’s, X-rays ,nerve conduction test, local neurologist and then several trips to Stanford University Medical Center where the diagnosis was confirmed in August. All the while I kept my manager and my assistant coach in the loop but not telling the team what they suspected it was.
My team started to notice the change in me because I’ve always been a very hands on coach. I hid it from them telling them I had hurt my back but also I didn’t want to believe it myself.
As the disease progressed it was apparent to all that something wasn’t right. Of course as soon as it was confirmed we let my family know. So with the support of my wife who I could not have dealt with this without her love and support, I decided to tell my team.
My assistant coach Justine Caldera who I’ve known since I coached her at U15’s was the first one outside my family I told. That was like telling one of your own kids. Then the manager who I’ve only known for a little over a year was told . We decided it would be best to tell the parents first and they can then tell the players themselves because they know their child and would know best how to approach it.
Being the tech savvy kids of today I’m sure some looked online and knew what the outcome would be.
After the email was sent out I received a lot of very heartfelt responses with prayers and offers of help.
At the next practice at first the girls didn’t know what to say. I told them I was the same Brian I just can’t demo anymore.
As the condition progressed I went from a limp to a cane. The girls would take turns holding my arm for balance and that’s when I realized what a special group of young adults I have. Being the coach of a team you always want to be in complete control sometimes to a fault. You hate to show any weakness but out there on the field they didn’t see a weakness. What they saw was someone dealing with a condition and what I saw was compassion not pity.
At the beginning of November I was no longer able to travel. With the help of the internet I’ve been able to keep in close contact with the team. I can no longer attend practices or games but my manager and parents live steam games for me. Justine and I keep in close contact and discuss the team’s progress. I could not have been blessed more with such a great person and coach to take over the girls team. What a special group they are.
I can’t say I was surprised by the mature way they handled it all. Young adults given the chance can handle a lot more than we give them credit for. The way they handled this life lesson off the field makes me feel that handling the challenges on the field should be a breeze. We as coaches and parents sometimes think that it’s a matter of life or death on the field. It is far from it.
One big thing I’ve learned from this life lesson was that I took myself way too seriously as far as win and losses go to define success. And what a perfect season would be. Now I look back and realize it’s just a game.
A very few of these kids will be playing pro someday but the majority of them will be like my three kids. A psychologist, the head of I.T for a county agency and a film editor. They are my perfect season.
USSF National “B” License
CYSA coaching Instructor