Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
Saying Goodby to Seniors
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. As the winter sports season comes to an end a host of Cobber student-athletes earned recognition for their athletic and academic achievements. And the process of watching outstanding seniors play out their last emotion-filled days as Cobber athletes continued.
This time of year, when tournament losses mark the end of so many teams' seasons, seniors everywhere struggle for perspective on a career that most often ended with a bitter loss.
For some Cobber seniors, like those on last fall's football team and this winter's Lady Cobber basketball team, the losses they suffered in their careers will be vividly remembered. But they are vivid only because they were so rare, a sure indication of a successful career. For such seniors there is a measurable legacy of accomplishment which eases the transition to the next stage in their lives.
But all the Cobber seniors, on both the winning and not- so-winning teams, struggle with the process of breaking up with teammates and coaches, people with whom their lives have been so intimately and intensely intertwined for so long. Yes, many will remain cherished friends for life. They are, after all, just graduating, not dying. And, for a few perhaps, the parting is less- than-tearful.
But, for most, there is an element of deep sadness, and some fear, that the special relationship they shared with their teammates will not likely occur again in their lives.
Within the cocoon of the team they came to know each other's strengths and foibles, not just as athletes but as people. As they traveled and ate and slept and practiced with each other they also laughed and wept and argued and made up with each other countless times. And in the process they bonded together and grew to adulthood.
Their coaches, who watched and tried to nurture that growth, feel immense parent-like pride as the seniors approach graduation. The saying-goodby-to-seniors process is, at Concordia and elsewhere, a time when coaches are reminded that their profession, with all its aggravations, is deeply rewarding.
Despite all the cliches usually at their disposal, they seldom have the words to adequately express to their seniors the warmth and appreciation they feel. They do the best they can when the time comes.
Somewhere, somehow, there occurs the ritual of that last team meeting. The conversation is often choked with feelings of "If only we had..." and "It shouldn't have ended this way." But, gradually, a sense of how good it really was to have shared it all together begins to come through.
Goodbys are said between people who will obviously see each other again the next day in class or in the gym.
But the goodbys make sense anyway because what is being said goodby to is not people but the cocoon, the team itself. This year's team, with this year's unique chemistry and personality, will never exist again. Its ending deserves a few eulogies to set the stage for fond memories that will linger for a lifetime.
The seniors know that everyone else in the room, coaches and players alike, will get another shot next year, a chance to be on a different team. Only the seniors must leave. That realization ruptures the cocoon. The seniors depart.
And then, soon, those who are left begin to weave next year's cocoon.
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