Archives For mentoring

On July 10th, my high school golf coach, Loren St. Lawrence passed away. He had valiantly fought cancer for the past eight years. As St. Lawrence put it, “I got cancer but cancer didn’t get me.”

It had been many years since I had last seen “Coach”. We stayed in touch primarily through writing. He was a regular encourager of me even years after he moved back to his home in Oregon and would almost always write back commenting on this blog.

He lived a “brilliant life”.

He was a devoted husband to his wife Barbara.

He was an acclaimed and adventurous race car driver.

He was a tenacious marketer.

He was a fine, honorable golfer.

He was a counselor and mentor to numerous high school students.

He was a successful high school golf coach, leading my high school team to State.

He was not a father per se but he adopted countless high school students through mentoring.

I am one of those students. To me, he was “Coach”, my mentor. 

 

John Marecek, Rick Ewing, and I with Coach at the 1996 State tournament with Coach.

John Marecek, Rick Ewing, and I with Coach at the 1996 State tournament with Coach.

The very first day I moved from Kansas City to St. Louis in 1993, he found me and brought me into his office. I felt little hope before that time as a lost, shy freshman. He immediately plugged me in with Rick Ewing and the golf team and the rest is history. The next four years, Coach invested in me and helped shape me into a confident leader, eventually captaining our team. I am writing this while Open Championship (The British Open) is being played, which is fitting. Coach called me “Radar” because I had the uncanny ability to find missing golf balls. It always makes me laugh because I have lousy eyesight and I just thought I was lucky.
My friend Rick Ewing hanging out with Coach in his office in-between classes.

My friend Rick Ewing hanging out with Coach in his office in-between classes.

Our high school was a public school and our golf team had to compete with the most elite private schools of the St. Louis area. We had a big chip on our shoulder because of this fact and were driven to win but we didn’t know how. Coach recognized this and when he took over as coach he was committed to making our program as elite or better than the private schools. He was impeccably organized to ensure we trained well to compete. He tracked details of how we scored in our rounds including fairways hit, greens in regulation, and tracking putts. These details were usually only captured by college coaches. He even made us look good with better uniforms, bags and club covers. Coach organized spring break trips (with the great help of parents) to go to Florida to play when it was snowing back home. This helped us to keep our game sharp before the heat to the Spring season and were prepared to win. We won our conference tournament four years in a row, sent team members to state every year, and eventually sent our whole team there our senior year. Our senior year he began a new tournament that would serve as a mid-season NIT and we invited all of the top teams in St. Louis to compete. We won that tournament and it prepared us to beat those teams again in the District championship thus taking us to the State tournament.
After four hard-working years, the 1997 Webster Groves High School Golf team wins the District title (the best team in St. Louis)

After four hard-working years, the 1997 Webster Groves High School Golf team wins the District title (the best team in St. Louis)

To young men who played under Coach may not have recognized how blessed they were at the time but as they reflected on their experience later in life, I am sure they recognized how well they had it under Coach’s leadership.
There is not a day I do not go back to my days on the golf course with him or his office talking about life and golf or the random fun of the day. Although I do not play much golf anymore since my family takes up my time, I still cherish those years in the golf course with Coach. I think he would appreciate that and make sure I knew that golf is a game that I will be able to play until the day I die. After all, Coach had played all the way up until the past few years.
Coach’s wisdom and encouragement stay and have fueled me to live life with honor, humility and great adventure on and off the golf course..
Thank you, Coach for believing in me and all of us. Thank you for living well. See you on the links in heaven.
Godspeed,
Radar
Coach's Obituary that appeared in Salem, Oregon.

Coach’s Obituary that appeared in Salem, Oregon.

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.