The Game Changer

After my freshman year of college, I questioned whether or not I wanted to transfer schools. Both of my assistant coaches, who I loved and respected, left the program to pursue other career options, leaving me fearful of what the next season would hold for me. Moreover, I was tired of trudging up and down snow and ice covered hills in order to get to class and practice.

During the summer, I did a great deal of soul searching and decided to go back to Colgate with a fresh outlook and an open mind; looking back on this decision, I realize that it was fate and part of my happiness plan that led me back to that frosty campus in Hamilton, NY.

Upon my return to school, the basketball team started preseason weight training sessions and open gym workouts. After one particularly grueling workout, I strutted onto the basketball court flexing what I thought were bulging biceps, shouting, “I’m so jacked!” Unbeknownst to me, standing on the sideline was one of our new assistant coaches, Amy.

My teammates introduced us, and I quickly felt my face turning many shades of red. Immediately she said, “Oh, so you’re Jackie…,” making me feel as if I was already branded in her mind as the cocky, hot-tempered, punk from Jersey who couldn’t be controlled by the coaching staff. Thankfully, Amy had a sense of humor.

I’m not quite sure why she took to me, but soon I became a regular in Amy’s office. We would have long conversations about books, relationships, and of course basketball and the issues I had with controlling my emotions during 40 minutes of play. She gave me a reason to control my temper on the court. She was the coach on our staff who was willing to fight for me, and even though I failed her at times, I put every ounce of my energy into not disappointing her.

Yes, she was my coach, and it was inevitable that she taught me many things about the game, but Amy was also the first person who taught me to value my intelligence. She made me realize that I didn’t have to always play the tough jock role; I was more than just a stat line to her, and that motivated me to really delve into my coursework. I ended up graduating fourth in my college class with honors, which I never could have accomplished without Amy’s guidance, wisdom, and constant encouragement.

Personally, Amy developed into much more than just my coach and mentor; she became the friend who helped me nurse my first broken heart; she became the shoulder to cry on when my grandmother passed away; she became the voice of clarity and honesty when my emotions clouded my judgement; she simply became the greatest source of consistent, loyal, and unconditional friendship that I have ever had.

Fifteen years have passed since I first met Amy that day on the court, and there hasn’t been a milestone or tragedy in either one of our lives that we haven’t shared with each other since then. She will stand by my side in the fall, just like she always has, on my wedding day as my maid of honor. I am so very grateful that fate and destiny brought me back to Colgate for my sophomore year where I was able to meet the person who changed my game plan up like no other.


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