Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Tom And Erin
Coming home from working out after school tonight, I heard Tom Petty on the radio. Tom Petty always makes me think of Erin McCulloch, one of the best- and toughest- girls I ever was blessed to coach. This is from December 5, 2005.
I was flipping through my TV channels last night as I dined on my Subway Meatball on Honey Oat Bread (toasted) Sandwich. My remote stopped on the Billboard Awards which I have never heard of. They were making a presentation to Tom Petty who I have heard of. My first impression was, "When did he get so old?" He was presented with the Century Award which answers my previous question. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, recorded their first album in 1976 so they have had long term success in the rock-and-roll arena. Don't Do Me Like That and Free Fallin' are standards on classic rock stations. In the late 80's and early 90's, Petty teamed with fellow rock legends Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne (E.L.O) to form an all-star band, the Traveling Wilburys. It can't be good for business when two of the five (Harrison, Orbison) have departed the earth in the intervening years.
Have you ever heard a song and automatically associated it with someone? That's me with one of Petty's hits, I Won't Back Down. Each time I hear it, one name comes to mind- Erin McCulloch. In another post, I mentioned it seemed all the kids at my first school were Copelands. In my second career stop at Friendship Christian School, the predominant name was McCulloch. Erin, a farm girl and a daddy's girl, was one of my students and basketball players. She also holds the title of fiercest competitor I have been blessed to teach or coach, male or female. Erin proved you don't have to be big to be fearless. I doubt she ever weighed more than one hundred pounds but she feared no one, no situation. There aren't many people we remember meeting but I'll never forget my first encounter with Erin. Krissy, Erin's older sister and one of my students, introduced me to this tiny fourth grader as our buses were loading at the end of a school day. She was shy but that would change. Erin started playing basketball in 7th grade and though it was a struggle, she was hooked. I'm partial to kids with limited gifts but unlimited tenacity. Her teams became another family for her. Several years before, I started a tradition of having a player (Karie Stewart) write reminders on my hand before practice and games. It was usually just P (for patience) and L (for love), the most important things in coaching and an arrow pointing North to remind me to COACH UP, not down. When Karie was about to graduate, I let her pick her successor. She chose Erin, about to join us as a freshman. Erin took her duty seriously. She wasn't gifted physically but she worked her fingers to the bone to get better. Academically, Erin was gifted with a tremendous work ethic. One semester, she took an independent study in US Government from me. She was worried about missing the discussions and reviews. In typical Erin fashion, she received the highest grade of anyone in the course. I knew she would. Kids like Erin will succeed because they refuse to give in or let anyone outwork them. It didn't matter if it was a Spring Break mission trip to Panama or a Powder Puff football game- Erin would show. The great western author, Louis L'amour wrote about a cowboy who, when times got tough, you didn't have to look around to see if he was still with you - you knew he was. That was Erin. She would have made a terrific cowboy, if she weren't a girl. Dependable, loyal, brilliant, fierce-what a combination the Lord put in that 5'4'" bundle of energy. I wish I could clone her and show the kids I have now, "See-this is what you could be!" Sadly, Erin's type only roll through the teacher/coach universe about as often as Halley's Comet. I guess I had my sighting.
With former players, you lose touch gradually. I saw Erin's picture last week in an alumni bulletin from her college alma mater. In a group shot with her church, there she was, with the same smile I first saw when she was ten. She's married and grown up. I haven't seen or talked to her in eighteen months but every time I see a plum (or maybe it was fuchsia) colored car like the one she owned, I say a little prayer for her. And when 93.7 the Arrow rolls out some T. Petty and the Heartbreakers, my mind goes back to Tennessee. These words can only be rightfully dedicated to one young lady with the heart of a lion:
No, I'll stand my ground
Won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from dragging me around
Gonna stand my ground
And I won't back down.
Applicable quote of the day:
"I'm more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than I am of an army of 100 lions led by a sheep."
*To hear Tom sing I Won't Back Down, copy and paste the link below!
E-mail me at email@example.com
Posted by Steve Hawley at 8:10 PM