Monday, November 8, 2010

Lock Step

I have never met her. I have never met any of the young women who play for her. Yet Jackie McLean of Wardlaw-Hartridge is among my favorite coaches and teachers of young people. Her approach to coaching clearly seems to embrace more than simply preparing her players for success on the field. Her players are not simply being prepared for success while they are on the field but off of it as well.

This season her varsity girl's soccer team has done my Alma mater proud. Yesterday they played for the Prep B State Championship at the home of the #1 seed - the PDS Panthers. W-H lost but considering that they made their way to the finals out of the #3 hole by upsetting the #2 seed Gill Saint-Bernards in a shootout at Gill in the semi-finals, their run through the Prep B playoffs was outstanding. In addition to their trek through the Prep B tournament they are moving through the NJSIAA playoffs as well. To my knowledge this is the first season that W-H has competed as a member of the NJSIAA. Coach McLean's girls won their first game in the NJSIAA sectional playoffs last week and on Wednesday will play in the sectional semi-finals at St. Rose of Belmar. If they win they play in the sectional finals on Veteran's Day. If they lose, then I presume any number of them shall trade in their soccer cleats for swim suits, basketball sneakers and volleyball regalia as they begin practice in the winter sport of their choosing.

Whether the season continues past Tuesday or not, Jackie McLean and her girls have brought nothing but pride and honor to the school they represent - a school that a lifetime ago my sisters Jill, Kara and I all graduated from, a school where my Mom worked and a school for which Dad gave his life. The fact that they have won 18 of the 21 games they have played to date is only half of it.

Coach McLean's team ran as a group in the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York in late September just as they had done last year. In October they hosted their own breast cancer fundraiser - as they had done last year. Sometimes when we as adults think of children and/or teenagers, we tend to do it in generalities. We opt for the lowest common denominator as well thinking of them and what they do under the heading of "worst case scenario".

And then we are introduced to young people such as the young women who wear the uniform of the Wardlaw-Hartridge varsity soccer team. We are reminded that for every rule, there are exceptions. And there are exceptional young people as well.

And there are of course exceptional adults who help guide those young people as they make their way in the world. Jackie McLean is such an adult. Well done Coach. Well done indeed.

-AK

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