Written by Carlene Hammonds
Starting at a young age, the YMCA became a way of life for my husband, Rich, and his family. Growing up, he was on a variety of team sports, and his mother took him and his brothers to the Y for swimming lessons.
When the time came to make decisions about how to raise our children, we decided to homeschool them. But we also wanted to give them the opportunities Rich had while growing up in the Y. We wanted them to learn the value of working together on a team and the importance of physical fitness.
Fortunately, we were able to do both through joining the Y. Since Rich knew firsthand how important team sports were, he registered our children as youth athletes at the Y and often signed up as a volunteer coach himself. The kids and Rich were involved in a variety of Y sports including volleyball, football and Tae kwon do. We loved that there were so many sports to choose from.
It is easy to reflect on the personal gains one takes away from participating in team sports, but the relationships that are developed as a result are important, too. For example, Rich’s impact as a coach at the Y was clearly realized when he was stationed almost halfway around the world in Kyrgyzstan. He was driving onto Manas Air Force base when the security guard at the entrance gate said, “Coach! Coach! Remember me?”
Knowing there were only a few choices, Rich guessed, “Football, right?”
The security guard answered, “Yes! You don’t mind if I call you ‘Coach,’ do you?”
Rich responded, “As long as no one else is around, that’s fine. Otherwise address me as Chief.”
This encounter served as a good reminder for us. Sometimes we don’t realize the impact we have on others’ lives and that meaningful relationships can be formed anywhere.
Having traveled to five different continents, Rich always appreciated getting to stop by military welcome centers such as the one the Y operates at Will Rogers World Airport. The welcome centers were a place he knew he didn’t have to be on guard and could rest; he could kick back and relax, and visit with the other military members there and make new connections. Considering the positive impact the Y has had on our family, it should come as no surprise we are still as involved as ever.
Carlene Hammonds is a member of YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City