I like difference makers. You know, people who make a difference.
People who are significant. True role models, not fake Nike endorsed dunk the ball role models, but real ones.
Some people are difference makers on a Global scale. Barrack Obama,( but he's loosing some of his magic), all 3 Kennedy brothers, even the two President Bush's were significant in their own ways.
On a smaller stage, my wife Mary Ellen and our friend Jane B., both of whom work with people, and their significance in the world though not as far reaching is no less important than those working on the world stage.
Another difference maker who worked the smaller venues in my world just recently passed away.
He was the track coach at LaSalle University, one of the "Big 5" colleges in Philadelphia.
My daughter Erin went to LaSalle. She also ran track for 4 years.
She knew Charles Torpey intimately.
But I know he was a difference maker. I like that.
I met Torpey twice. The first time was during my daughters freshman year, a quick hello.
The second time was in her senior year, at an awards banquet I attended with Erin.
I didn't get much out of him that time either. I don't actually think he cared one way or another about parents, because he was too busy focusing on what mattered to him, and that was his athletes.
Torpey could be described as "a character."
One thing was clear from the beginning. This grumpy track coach was making a serious impression on my daughter. She would call me on a daily basis and fill me in on the latest coaching techniques and the shananagans of coach Torpey. I remember one phone call when I was told that Torpey just went haywire in his office, screaming at the team, dropping F-bombs like he invented them, and then kicked everyone out and sent them home. For my daughter who had been hugged and stroked by her coaches in high school, this was quite an eye opener.
This wasn't high school sports any more.
But there was a method to his madness, otherwise why would the hundreds of athletes he coached over the years love him so much. Their loyalty to him is amazing.
All those that loved him, probably hated him at one point or another.
I loved watching him at track meets. Talk about a guy who was passionate.
While he was watching one of his runners during an event, I felt sure he was going to break a blood vessel or something, all red in the face and screaming.
He would push his team to their limits, testing them.
Just like you have to do in life.
My daughter bitched about Torpey for 4 years. It was also evident to me she loved this coach like no other, because he was more than a coach.
Erin's been out of college for 6 or so years, but when she would be in the Philly area, she would stop by to see coach Torpey. Every phone call she has with her fellow team mates, Torpey's name would come up.
He was a difference maker.
There was a line in his eulogy , "he knows you better than you know yourself."
That's why he was such a great coach.
My daughter recently shared with me some classic Torpey stories.
With a smile she recounts, " he once made the whole team sit on the 8 hour bus ride home after a particularly bad effort by his team, no talking allowed, no sleeping, no reading, no listening to music, nothing....just sitting."
After another bad effort, he made his team pick up all the trash in the whole stadium.
An environmentalist before it became fashionable I would say.
Here's my favorite. Erin was the type of kid who got very nervous before each and every event. There was no talking her out of it. She was quite good ( yes, still holds some LaSalle records...dad bragging here) but she got nervous before each event for 4 years.
Once, as she was exhibiting to Torpey a particularly bad bout of nerves, Torpey said to her, "Finucane, your not going to f**king war, your throwing the shot put. No one is going to shoot at you and you don't have to shoot anyone."
Her stories about him made me laugh. I think I would have liked having a beer with that guy.
"Someone said about him, "He was someone that could have an impact on you in a very short time. He invades and occupies your mind and your heart..."
Yep, he was a guy who made a difference to many young people and he influenced their lives for ever, in a good way.
For a guy who seemed so rough around the edges, why did all these people want to please him, want to succeed for him?
Because he was special.
I just thought I'd share this story with you, in case you like difference makers too.