Influence is 24/7

I first shared this story several years ago when I was coaching at Wayne State College in Nebraska. Years later I still find value in these words. Enjoy…

I think we do a pretty good job of teaching our team that while they might be able to take their jerseys off, they are always representing our team, our school, and our community. Earlier this month I was undeniably reminded of this fact.

Here’s the back-story… after spending six days in Philadelphia doing some INTENSE workshops I headed to a hotel near the Philly airport… I went to bed at 10pm, got up at 4:15am, was at the airport by 5am, stood in the security line until 6am, got on my flight at 6:30am, flew to St. Louis and had a four-hour layover, got on the flight to Omaha… I took a window seat and told the guy in the aisle seat that maybe we’d get lucky and no one would sit in the middle seat… they announced it was a full flight and then a 10-year-old girl with more energy than a puppy took the seat between us… she talked the entire flight and while I was one big yawn away from passing out, I couldn’t help but smile 🙂

Her name was Courtney. She likes horses, and dogs, and ice cream. She has an older brother. Her Grandma was on the flight too. Her mom works in Reservations for Southwest. She has been on vacation with her Grandma… she asked me and the guy in the aisle seat – who I now know as Kelly – every question under the sun. Kelly couldn’t have been nicer. He answered all her questions…. how old are you? (49) Do you have kids? (Yes, two of them, ages 19 and 20) Do you like horses? (Yes)  Can you ask them if they have pretzels? (Yes) Why are you flying to Omaha? (To see the College World Series with my three friends across the aisle.) Can I have more cranberry juice? (Yes)

Courtney talked to us NON-STOP the ENTIRE flight! It was amazing! When the pilot announced we were starting our descent she suddenly grabbed both our hands and said, “Can I hold your hands, landing makes me nervous?!” Well, she was already holding our hands so saying no seemed like it was out of the question AND we were still at about 20,000 feet! So for the next 25 minutes, she held our hands with the grip of death! And… she was still talking! She was an amazing little girl with a lot of confidence and a lot of questions.

Once we got to the baggage claim area I asked the guys that Kelly was traveling with what they thought she’d be doing with her life in 10 years. They all replied, “ANYTHING she wants to do!” As we waited for our luggage one of the guys asked me, “Are you a coach or a player?” I replied, “Head Soccer Coach, Wayne State College… I used to be a player.” And that was it until I got the following email this week…. It was titled:

“Now a Wayne State College Fan….”

Coach – 

I was one of the guys flying with you to Omaha last week when that “very outgoing” little girl was sitting next to you and holding your hand because she was nervous when planes land. She was a trip! I was not the guy sitting next to you but I sat across the aisle. I briefly talked to you in the Omaha airport once we landed.

This probably seems strange to you…but I’m just a huge sports person. I’m more than a fan. I keep up with sports and coaches most people don’t. I’ve become a big Creighton fan and I follow Nebraska because I have been going to the College World Series (in Omaha) off and on since 1994. Anyway, my point to this rambling email is I looked you up on the Wayne State College website and was surprised to find out you majored in communication…so did I…and you have a Belmont connection…and you have a University School of Nashville connection…all of which I do too! So…because you impressed me on the plane with the way you carried yourself, I am now a Wayne State College fan and wanted to wish you luck in the fall.

Looks like it’s been a struggle at Wayne, but you are making progress. You obviously have good student athletes with student coming first! I follow coaches and programs and it would seem you run a good program with good kids and hopefully, that will start to translate to more wins on the field. Keep up the good work and maybe you can recruit some players from Tennessee and Kentucky? Maybe that little girl with the big personality will grow up to play soccer and you can recruit her!! She would bring a lot to a program!

Good luck coach. It will be fun to follow your career. Go Wildcats!

Greg Purpus

Academic Transitions Program, Coordinator
Assistant Director of Admissions
Western Kentucky University

So there it is, you never know when you’ll meet someone or do something simple that catches someone’s eye. I’ll do my best (although not flawlessly) to represent our program well, I hope you’ll do the same.

Influence is not a part-time job.