Guest Blog - Winning the Lottery

By John Kessel | June 15, 2011, 3:57 p.m. (ET)

by John Kessel / June 15, 2011

Sometimes I get an email that just seems a waste to let remain in my email folder, but instead be shared. This story by Dennis Belaire, who is busy growing as a coach by giving back to USA Volleyball through work with our USAV Sports United Grant for the 6 NORCECA nations and a lot of YMCA outreach programming, beyond that of just “his club,” is one of those emails. Thanks to Dennis and Dale for their willingness to give back to the sport.

The Skill Ignition Volleyball Club (in the Lakeshore Region under the direction of Club Director, Lori Higgins) recently held its 2nd Annual Banquet. This banquet is held to recognize the accomplishments of our athletes. Nearly 200 well dressed people were in attendance. We ask the athletes and coaches alike to “gussy” up so we can get to see each other in something more fitting than the usual sweaty gym clothes.

Our guest speaker was the Father of one of our athletes. This family has been a part of our volleyball club since its inception last year. To give you some basic background information, Brooke Essenmacher played for my 12U team last season and was a precocious child who wanted to master her overhand serve. Her lack of serving skills consumed this young athlete and, during the course of the entire season, I was unable to get her comfortable enough to serve overhand consistently.

As Mr. Essenmacher (Dale) got up to speak, I knew we had given him little direction other than suggesting he speak about the two-year experience his family had with the club. We could have asked many other parents to speak, but, Mr. Essenmacher, was really our 1st and only choice.

He started his speech by shocking the audience in stating that his family happened to get very lucky in the fall of 2009 when they won the lottery! He went on to say that, like most families, winning the lottery drastically changed their lives forever.

He continued by explaining they hadn't won the lottery by stopping at a local establishment and buying a lottery ticket. Their family’s lottery ticket, came to them in the form of an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper they were handed following the final volleyball game that Brooke participated in with the Parks and Recreation program in their hometown. Although just curious at this point, the Essenmacher family decided to show up at our evaluation process to find out where their daughter fit when matched up against girls her age in a sport she liked to play.

At the evaluation process, Brooke (and her parents) knew she wasn’t the best player there but she wasn’t the worst player either. She was awarded a spot on the 12U team that I was coaching, however they knew she had a battle ahead of her.

According to Mr. Essenmacher, although unaware at the time, this was when their lottery ticket turned out to be a winner. He went on to explain Brooke’s season was filled with enormous struggles because she was unable to master her overhand serve. He described the tear-filled rides home from practice and the sleepless nights her daughter would experience because she felt like she was letting her team down.

I had a few lengthy conversations with the Essenmacher’s followed up by emails to them and to Brooke herself during these struggling times. They recognized then and there that the volleyball club was truly vested in making every kid in the program into better people by helping to make them feel better about themselves.

Mr. Essenmacher told the crowd that the support his family got and, more importantly, Brooke received from her coach, me, during these emotional and trying times is when they cashed in their winnings from that lottery ticket.

He then looked right at me and thanked me for believing in his daughter and being there for her. This was emphasized further by Mr. Essenmacher, at that moment, when he told the entire 200 people in the audience that I (I still cannot believe he credited me!) saved this young lady's sports career! As his lower lip quivered, mine did too. I got up and walked over to him, shook his hand, and swallowed him in a great big hug! I told him that I loved him and the entire Essenmacher family. And he told me that they loved me as well. I sat back down with a few tears in my eyes and, as a matter of fact, as I sit here writing this today, the tears have returned.

Mr. Essenmacher continued by saying that her 7th grade grade Middle School volleyball happened to be coached by one of the coaches from the club (Coach Lori Higgins and lottery winning ticket #2). He then went on to explain that this season is when they caught lightning in a bottle a 3rd time. Not only did Coach Rich (Cadicamo) finally succeed in getting Brooke to master her overhand serve, she also, as a result of Rich’s coaching, developed a level of confidence she will carry with her throughout her entire life!

Brooke played an instrumental role in her team winning Gold at one tournament this season, Mr. Essenmacher told us, when she took her team from down by 3-4 points (around 19 or 20 to 23), to win. She served her team to victory and she ACE served their opponents for match point. So, Brooke has come full circle. He thanked each of us coaches, the club, and her team mates for her accomplishments.

This family, this wonderful and beautiful family, gave me (of all people, me) so much credit for being such a positive influence in their lives. I am cognizant of the impact I have on athletes, but the depth of impact I’ve had on this incredible family amazes me. I didn't know I had THIS much impact and it truly humbles me.

I have also found out, the Essenmacher’s have printed out the emails I wrote to them and to Brooke and have placed them into Brooke’s volleyball scrapbook. I’ve somehow managed to touch this family with such enormity it has made me realize once again how important the role a coach plays in the lives of not only the athletes they coach, but also, the families of the athletes we coach. I was, and still am, deeply touched by Mr. Essenmacher’s words.

Which brings me back to USA Volleyball and the training and education I've received over the years. The information I've been given during my training has profoundly changed me, not just as a coach, but as a person. As I got more training, the training from USA Volleyball shaped me, then reshaped me. I am certainly not the same coach I was before I got IMPACT certified in 2004; and I am certainly not the same coach I was just few short months ago before I went to CAP III training in COS.

To the Essenmacher's, thank you for giving me such an incredible gift; that story about Brooke. To USA Volleyball, thank you for the opportunities I've been afforded over the years. Diana Cole, and her staff at USA Volleyball are to be commended for what they've done for countless others. I know I've been transformed and I owe that transformation to their tireless efforts. From IMPACT through CAP III, I know that all of that training is what placed me in a position to have such an impact on this young athlete.

Dennis Belaire -
Skill Ignition Volleyball Club
12U S1 Dynamite Head Coach
USA Volleyball Certified CAP Level III Volleyball Coach
MHSAA Certified Volleyball Official
PAVO Certified College Volleyball Line Judge


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