One week ago as the regular season came to a close at the Whittemore Center, we paid tribute to our senior class and their families. This is always an emotional and tearful moment. You can’t spend four years of your life dedicated to a team of peers without forming a lifetime of memories, friendships and bonds.
Four years ago they arrived in Durham worried about fitting in, being accepted and finding their niche. They began a journey filled with challenges and adversity that often exceeded expectation. They worked tirelessly in spite of setbacks, injuries and disappointments. They learned to share in the triumphs and failures of their teammates. Many times it was bitter sweet. They learned lessons about shared responsibility, ownership, values and character.
What began as seven young freshmen gazing at their world through seven very distinct and different prisms, evolved into a shared understanding. They speak a common language now, can relate to one another without speaking and know themselves better in the process.
They don’t know it yet but this will never change. As they head out into the so called ‘real world’ and begin careers and start families of their own; they will always share this bond with each other. They are teammates for life. Aside from family, these will be some of the strongest bonds they’ll ever form.
I was reminded of this two days ago when my former teammate and classmate called to catch up. Ronnie hailed from Montreal and we met as freshmen some 40 years ago in Hanover NH. Aside from the maple leaf, we shared little in common. However that all changed as we shared locker rooms, bus rides, injuries, laughter and tears. We departed four years later to take on the world. Our paths rarely crossed. When they did we’d reconnect joyfully. It didn’t seem to matter what had transpired in our personal lives or how much time had elapsed between gatherings. We understood each other better than people we saw every day. Conversations magically picked up where they last left off. There were no airs, pretensions, posturing or secrets for that matter. Why bother…we knew each other in ways that made all that social nonsense unnecessary.
Dr Seuss said it best. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter… and those who matter don’t mind.”
We will miss this group of seniors in so many ways. Senior day, on the surface, is a recital of statistics. But nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers have nothing to do with what we’ll miss. A few hours prior to their last home game I spoke about this inside our locker room. I talked of qualities and traits like humor, courage, determination, empathy, kindness and humility. It was important to point out the enormous impact that these seven individuals had made on everyone sharing that room.
I will miss Kleiny, Bryanna, Paige, Ti, Kristine, Brocky and Chaps. Watching your seniors depart is always filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, you feel like a sheep herder losing your best guide dogs. On the other, you recognize a whole new world awaits and they’re ready to make their way. On the one hand there is a feeling of loss; on the other a true sense of excitement. One chapter is about to close, but so many new ones await to unfold.
I want to thank each of our seniors for everything we’ve shared the past four years. You will take many roads in the years ahead. No matter the distance or lapse of time, you will always remain a Wildcat. Your teammates will be a part of who you are and beside you no matter where you go. And yes, Durham will always feel like home.
One of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes says it best.
“Don’t Cry Because It’s Over…………..Smile Because It Happened.”