I’m sad to say that this will be my final farewell to everyone. This summer season was truly one of the best – as evident by the awesome slide show that the Cheng family created. I joked with my coaching staff that I only ball my eyes out when I watch the beginning of UP, but the slide show (and banquet speeches) made me tear up. I like to think the ending of the slide show was my own little UP journey. Thank you so much for that.
I know I already touched upon this last night during the banquet, but I just wanted to say it one more time to signify the progress that our team has made together as a community. When I first joined the Park Paseo Northstars in 2006 – I felt disconnected from the team because I was rarely going to practices and would only show up to volunteer or compete at meets. No one knew who I was despite volunteering and I didn’t feel like I was really a part of the team. In fact, the coaches at the time even made me do the 100 Medley Relay Coaches Race at half-time by myself!
I had envisioned a different type of swim experience for a summer-league team. I wanted to swim with a team that I felt connected with – not just by practicing and attending meets but by having fun outside of the pool deck as well. I wanted to know who my teammates were more than just knowing “that person is good at backstroke.” When I was given the opportunity to become an Assistant Coach and then Head Coach, I wanted to do my best to inspire and create a team that embraced the community-aspect of the Irvine Swim League, which I think that some of the ISL teams forget about. It isn’t just about giving kids swim sets and trying to win divisions, events, and etc. The ISL is about making friends within your community – both parents and kids alike – and having a fun experience both inside and outside of the water. I didn’t want water polo players to only do water polo and NOVA swimmers to only do NOVA – I wanted to encourage them to do both. And although it took a couple of years to introduce and execute Fun Fridays, FUNdraisers, and other team activities (like the popular Sleepover) – it worked. And this year was the first year – in my opinion – where it felt like a norm. These events are now Park Paseo traditions that a lot of kids and coaches can look forward to in the future.
But none of this would have worked if I didn’t have the support, care, and blessing that I have received from the Park Paseo Board, all of our Northstar families, and of course my coaching staff. Even though I’m the recipient of the Todd K. Larsen Coach of the Year Award – I want you all to know that everyone has a part of that award.
I would also like to thank everyone that wrote in a letter of rec to the ISL committee. I had the chance to read all of them today and I feel very proud, blessed, and honored to have been looked up to as a role model rather than just a swim coach. I loved working with all of your children and have had the pleasure of watching some of them literally grow up to teenagers/young adults. Every kid was a pleasure to work with and all of them are great kids – a clear reflection of what wonderful parents all of you are.
I promise to come back to home meets next year and maybe even crash in on Fun Fridays or other events (if that’s okay, of course). I know that whoever replaces me as Head Coach next year will carry out the Park Paseo traditions, cheers, and more that we have put in place for the past four years.
As I conclude my e-mail, I would love to see all of our Northstars continue the swim progress that they made this summer – either through water polo or a club swim team. I have an enormous amount of passion for both sports and it’s my hope that the kids continue it throughout the year. If you need any advice on clubs in the area – I would love to provide what I can and I also suggest contacting families that are already a part of these clubs.
I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your summers and have a wonderful rest of the year. I will miss all of the great moments that I’ve had as a coach of the Park Paseo Northstars but I will never forget them.
And thank you to everyone that hid in those stands, made those signs/banners, and ultimately made my last day as the Northstars’ Coach a life moment that I will cherish forever.
All the best,