CHSCA Hall of Fame Induction Dinner
November 18th, 2004
|The following is a copy of the speech given by Laddie Lawrence at his induction into the CHSCA Hall of Fame.|
Thank you Jim for your kind words and wonderful introduction.
It is a great honor and extreme privilege to be selected by ones peers for such a prestigious award as the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. It is a humbling experience to be associated with those individuals who have had truly outstanding and distinguished coaching careers in Connecticut. It is an overwhelming feeling. I am deeply moved by this honor.
One of my personal heroes, Emil Zatopek, the great Czechoslovakian distance runner, once said “Great is the victory, but greater still is the friendship”. I have very fond memories of the many competitions that Staples teams participated in. However, it is the relationships that have developed as a result of these competitions that I treasure and cherish: From the citizens of Westport, who are very supportive of the Staples Athletic Program. To my colleagues at Staples, who help make our departmental lunches a daily highlight. To the Staples Administrators, who constantly strive to make our Athletic Program a meaningful experience for all our students. To the members of the press, who always find a way to make me look good in the media. To the opposing coaches, who have provided me with many positive learning experiences and meaningful friendships. To my assistant and co-head coaches, whose expertise and hard work make me look good. To the parents of my athletes, whose trust and faith in my coaching abilities have gone unquestioned for as long as I can remember. To the many young men and women student-athletes themselves, whose hard work, dedication and success have made it possible for me to be here tonight. And finally to my family, whose undying support and personal sacrifice have been great. A special thank you also belongs to my late mother, Alice, who taught me about unconditional love, and to my sister, Gail, who is a very supportive sibling. I deeply appreciate all of you and I thank God for the opportunity to know, work with and love you.
Robert Mastruzzi, former Superintendent of Manhattan High Schools, once wrote: “It is not an uncommon view that the coach is the most influential adult with whom a youngster may come in contact while in High School. The influence that the coach exerts over the athlete carries with it incredible responsibility, for to often the course of a lifetime is directed during these formative years.” Having experienced the death of my father at a very early stage of my life I am very thankful that my coaches took their responsibility seriously. It was the late Ed Hall, who helped to develop my interest in track and field, Paul Lane, who nurtured that interest into a passion, and Rip Powell, who gave me the opportunity to turn that passion into a career.
My involvement in the sports of Cross Country and Track and Field have provided me with more beneficial experiences and positive feedback than I have been able to give back to those sports. As a young boy they helped to foster a sense of self-esteem at a time in my life when I was having trouble finding some. As a young teen they helped keep me out of trouble at a time when trouble was easily finding me. As an older teen they helped to keep me focused on school. As a young adult they helped to provide me with a free college education and a path to a significant career. As an adult they helped me to meet and marry my wife Katie. And as an older adult they provided me with the wonderful opportunity of spending precious time with my children. In fact the greatest thrill of my coaching career was coaching my own children. John, I will never forget our embrace after your relay team won a state championship. Andrew, I will never forget your response of being able to “spend more time with me” as your primary reason for wanting to transfer schools. Both of these memories touch my heart everyday. And although I’ve never coached my daughter Katherine, it always brings tears to my eyes every time I see her glide effortlessly across a ballet stage. She would have been a fantastic hurdler.
One of my favorite quotes is by Robbie Brightwell, Captain of the 1960 British Olympic Team. Brightwell said: “You have to be calm, but almost savage, have supreme confidence in yourself, be able to take punishment and still come up.” Although he was talking about running 400 meters, I believe he was really talking about life. Brightwell would be pleased to know my greatest hero. This hero is a person who has taught me much about life and its struggles. This person was and is my rock. This person was capable of doing everything and I was in awe of their abilities and talents.
It was a very sudden and unexpected event that occurred when my hero was violently ripped off of life’s winding path of gentle ups and downs and thrust into the deep, dark abyss of depression. For fourteen years my hero has struggled with this and other life threatening or lifestyle altering diseases. My hero has come far in the struggle for health and wellness. My hero has taught me much about perseverance, character, diligence, the unfairness of life, about bouncing back up when life’s events keep knocking you down, and about my own sense of commitment and responsibility. My greatest hero is my wife Katie. Through all of her struggles and throughout my career her support has remained absolute. For this I am very thankful. Katie I love you.
I am also very thankful for all of those who have helped us in our time of need. Led by the Staples Track and Field Community, a few local business men and our church, you have helped to save Katie’s life, my life, and our family. Your love and support for us has continued in many ways, including financial support from this very Association. For this I am eternally grateful.
Finally, my Pastor, Paul Teske, as part of one of his sermons several years ago told the congregation about the secret of a fulfilled life. He said: “find what you love to do, that God made you to do and to do it for His glory.” I believe my life has been and will continue to be very fulfilling. I thank God for the opportunity to serve others and I thank all of you for this esteemed and illustrious honor.