The measure of a coach is never really known until years down the road, when players grow up and realize the impact that is made on their lives. This past weekend, I was able to watch the measure of a man, a coach, a teacher and mentor come to tuition as Bruce Stewart was honored as players, students and friends paid their final respects to the Mount Senario and Ladysmith coach.
It started with one post on Facebook by former Ladysmith football player, Blayne Steffen and took off into a goose bump filled day as players from Ladysmith and Mount Senario came back to Ladysmith to give a former coach a moment that this sport’s writer will never forget.
Players from Mount Senario, wearing their jerseys, letter man’s jackets along with coach Stewart’s former students made their way to pay their respects for a man that led them to more than just championships. I sat back in awe as I watch these grown men come back to Ladysmith and reunite as if they never left each other’s sides. I watch coaches like Bob Lichtey hug his former players and tears of joy and memories come rushing back as they came back to honor a man that guided them in their early days as Fighting Saints.
I watch as purple jerseys came walking to the Legacy Theatre from all directions, sit and wait patiently as they stood to pay their final respects to a coach that impacted their lives in ways that many who played sports will understand.
I had the ability to be part of one of the crews that build the Legacy Theatre, and Saturday, I finally understood why a facility like it was built. Their was no other place that would have been more perfect for a day to remember a person like coach Bruce Stewart like the Legacy Theatre. Coach Stewart was given one of the most amazing funerals I have seen in my 42 years on this earth. To watch players reunite, hug and reminisce of their playing days made me have to hold back tears as a former coach and player.
Family, students, players, colleagues and friends traveled the unknown miles to do the only thing they knew they, scratch that, felt they needed to do. That was to say good-bye and thank you to a husband, father, brother, teacher and coach that impacted their life in ways they only know, but got to share one final time.
The measure of a coach will never be realized until years down the road for many athletes. Coaching is one of the most thankless jobs, especially when you aren’t always winning. If Saturday showed anything, it surely wasn’t about the wins and losses that coach Stewart accumulated throughout his Hall of Fame Career. Saturday showed that coach Stewart won the hearts of many men and women by how he went about his life.
I had a opportunity to shake many hands, meet many former players, many former Lumberjacks that I trained with in the Ladysmith weight room in my final two years of playing. Coach Stewart did that, I had the opportunity to make relationships with many. My time as a Fighting Saint was impacted by a tradition started by coach Stew. His brother, Jim and wife Tami took care of me during my time as a Fighting Saint and helped me cross paths to get to know the man that Bruce Stewart was.
I know last week I spoke about coach Stew, but after Saturday, if you weren’t able to attend the funeral I just feel that I should share what coaching is truly about. The years that have gone by may have flown by for many, but the memories, the lessons and the legacy lives on by those impacted by great people in one’s life.
As I shook Blayne Steffen’s hand, I took a minute to thank him. I thanked him for what he did by making the gesture to show respect to a man that deserved it. Thank you Blayne, former Saints, Lumberjacks, Lumberjills and everyone that showed how a man who gave his life to impacting the youth through teaching and coaching by what you did for coach Stewart and his family.
Our community should be proud, I know I was as I sat back and watch so many fill the Legacy Theater like a Friday night or Saturday football game in football like conditions to honor a man and his family who have given so much to the Ladysmith area. Always........ FIND A WAY!