Note: Andrew Gascho has taught at EMS for eight years and served as head girls soccer coach since 2015, previously serving as assistant coach. He became EMS athletic director in summer 2019. “Andrew has brought such a calm, professional, committed and Christ-centered perspective to this role, I keep forgetting it’s his first year,” says Justin King, high school principal. Coach Gascho is known for his ability to nurture winning teams, having taken two teams to state championship competition and potentially poised for another this spring. But first and foremost, always, is his desire that athletes grow as individuals in their chosen sport, developing deep relationships with each other and God, while also excelling at academics. The loss of the spring season is hard for him, but his greatest grief is for the student athletes. Here is a letter he wrote to them this week.
To the EMS Athlete,
In a time like this, words don’t seem adequate to express the deep grieving you are experiencing individually, as well as collectively with your coaches and families. When I have experienced grief in my life, I usually got through it by sitting with people… I wish I could sit with each one of you to listen to your story. Listen to your disappointments, frustrations and what ifs…
But sitting with you isn’t even an option during these challenging times.
So from 6ft away… or from a computer screen away, I am sitting with you. Grieving with you. Wishing that I was on the sideline watching you do what you do best, having fun competing in the sports that you love. Seeing you glorify God through the gifts he has blessed you with. Seeing you succeed and seeing you work through difficulties. Seeing you come together with your teammates to do something incredible.
You have put in tireless hours working individually and beside your teammates so you could be at your best, preparing yourself for the biggest moments, on some of the biggest stages. Many of you were hoping to compete for a conference championship and to make a run at a VISAA state title. For some teams and individuals, these were attainable goals. Your friends, family and school community were looking forward to watching you try and achieve the goals you were striving for, both individually and collectively.
In the midst of these disappointments, it is important to remember that athletics are about more than just winning in your last competition of the season, they are about the journey getting there. It is the loss of that journey that I grieve for you the most. For some of you, afternoons were the most sacred part of your day. When you stepped onto the field, course, court or track, you had the opportunity to forget about the stress of your day and just enjoy being a kid and play. And let’s not forget the most special part of all of it, you got to do it with some of your closest friends.
In the midst of our social distancing, our grieving for moments and opportunities lost, those friends and relationships with coaches, are still there, and they are what will help get you through these tough times. I urge you to continue to stay connected with your teams. Walking through deep disappointment is always easier when you allow someone to walk with you.
To the Senior, whose EMS career is done… My heart hurts for you. For the last three or four years, you have poured your heart and soul into your sport and your teams. You started as 8th graders or freshman, seeking to find your place and role on the team. Over the years, you grew into great leaders that impacted your teammates and coaches in incredible ways. Your final year wasn’t supposed to end like this, it was supposed to end with hugs and celebrations, not virtual classes and connecting over technology. Your athletic career at EMS is over, but I pray that you will carry with you the memories and friendships formed over the last few years. You have experienced the most brutal aspect of athletics, they can be over in an instant. You never know when you will play the last game of your season, or career.
Through some of my personal processing, I was reminded of the story from Luke 24 where Jesus appears to two men who were grieving and processing together after their world had been turned upside down. When Jesus appeared, the two men didn’t know who he was. But he walked with them, listened and spoke truth to them.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road’ “ Luke 24:30-32
God doesn’t adhere to social distancing rules and guidelines. He is sitting with you, walking alongside you as you grieve what could have been. I pray that at some point during your own processing, your heart will burn with the recognition that the love of Christ was surrounding through it all. Christ won’t instantly take away your pain, but promises to walk with you as you process and mourn.
Don’t let this be the end. Continue to reach out to your teammates and coaches. We are in this together. Let’s ‘sit’ together and grieve. Let’s listen. Let’s talk through our sadness and frustration. Let’s not dwell on what could have been, but focus on what we had.
May the God of love, grace and peace continue to pour out his blessings, even in these uncertain times.
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