As a middle school teacher and high school basketball coach, I’ve become familiar over the years with how quickly any perceived slight can quickly find its way to the desk of an administrator. Occasionally, good news is passed on, making everyone feel good about themselves and the job they’re doing. Having said that, I thought it necessary to write you in regards to your womens’ soccer program and coach Jim O’Brien.
Coach O’Brien and I became friends when he and I shared time in the Southern Connecticut athletic department. As time has passed, I have been fortunate to maintain this friendship.
My three-year old daughter Emily was born with a rare congenital disorder where her right femur did not fully develop in utero. Over the next 10 years, our family will need to take multiple trips to West Palm Beach, Florida where a doctor who specializes in Emily’s condition has built a limb-lengthening institute. While my wife and I are fortunate to have careers that allow us a certain amount of flexibility, the financial concerns do weigh on us.
When Coach O’Brien heard about Emily, he wanted to know how he could help. Last spring, he helped organize a fundraiser during a scrimmage at Southern where people could make donations. Most recently, he, with the help of Chris O’Connor in sports information, set up a similar fundraiser at the home game against Stony Brook. While the donations were more than generous, the bucket could have been empty and we still could not have been more excited about what took place.
An hour before kick-off, we were greeted at the gate by O’Brien and a handful of his players. Emily was led on to the field where she got to interact with the players during warm-ups. She was named an honorary captain for the game, high-fived each starting player and even got to stand on the sideline, complete with Fairfield soccer apparel, during the match. Even with a spirited three-year old in the mix during a close match, the players displayed genuine enthusiasm and patience with her every inquiry.
While Fairfield came up short that day, I can only hope the players and coaching staff take comfort in knowing how happy they made our daughter.
Your womens’ soccer program is made up of the kind of student-athletes that should make a university very proud, and it is in good hands under the direction of Jim O’Brien.