Death. There is nothing more difficult to deal with or understand. There is nothing someone can do or say to make another person feel better. People will react differently and there is no right or wrong way. Unfortunately- this is not the first time I've wrote these same words.
I had the privilege of coaching a great kid, Miguel "Mikey" Hernandez, while he was at Righetti High School. Mikey was part of the soccer program and part of the most remarkable season in school history. The season the boys racked up twenty-six wins with just one loss and one tie. A season the boys went on a crazy unbeaten streak including a perfect league record of twelve wins and zero losses. Mikey was a huge part of that. So huge that he was a player that I never once removed from the field. Not once. He remembered that and wrote about it in his "Farewell Class of 2009 Speech" that he presented in his Senior English class just before graduating.
"I will always remember my senior soccer season because this team has gone farther than we have ever gone in the history of Righetti High School. I will always remember being the first team winning the undefeated league champions title ever in the Pac-7 league. I will remember never getting out all season even if I was hurt. I always did my best and I always took down the biggest guy on the other team each time."
You might be wondering how I can quote one of my players speeches from almost six year ago? It's because Mikey wrote something so touching that his English teacher felt that it was necessary to place a copy in my school mailbox. Because of the time of year, I didn't receive it until after Summer break, and after Mikey had already graduated and moved on.
"This next person I think has made a great impact in my life. I met him my freshman year and at first I disliked him because he had some anger issues and it always seemed as if he was going to knock one of the players out. His name is John Pranjic. At first I thought he just had problems, and only made people work hard to make him feel better about himself so he can feel like he is the boss of everyone. So I would always hate when he made us run because it seemed like we ran forever but as the years went by I matured and took the things that I do more seriously. So for my final year here at Righetti I got a chance to play for him on the Righetti Warrior soccer team. After all those hard years of running and working out the drills he made us do was easier but a still a challenge.
I know now that in order to become good at what you want to do you have to work hard from the beginning. So in the end I liked the way he pushed the team to go one hundred percent every time in practice so that when game day came around, it would be a breeze because we were more self-confident and ready to go play our game. I am proud and glad to have had a coach like him to teach me how to be a real team player and a leader that wants to get goals accomplished. For that I give him all my respect and hope we still keep in touch in the future."
Mikey was a coaches dream. He was there to do his job and do it the best he could. He was always eager to learn and always eager to help. I am never going to forget one of the smallest kids on the field having one of the biggest hearts. He fought and fought and fought until he couldn't fight anymore. And I hope that is the memory that we can all keep of Mikey. His hard work and dedication to his team will never be forgotten by me or anyone else involved with the program during his years at Righetti High School.
I'll miss you, man. Your smile literally lit up the room. Seeing you so happy around your teammates is a memory engrained in my brain. Not to mention how polite you were to everyone you encountered. I still remember you just waiting so patiently in line at team dinners and always having a smile on your face when you got to practice... even if you were running late because you were with your girlfriend after class!
It is with a heavy heart and many tears that I write... R.I.P. Miguel "Mikey" Hernandez.