I began coaching girls’ softball teams in the spring of 1980 at Laramie, Wyoming. During my first practice, with my first team of 10 to 12 year olds, I met Shannon. She was a tall and lanky kid with large brown eyes. Shannon had never played softball before and her mitt looked like it had been handed down for at least two generations. I noticed a pair of well worn Keds sneakers on her feet.
At first appearance, one could easily perceive Shannon to be a timid, shy and insecure child. It did not take long for me to know her as a very hard working, humble, teachable, determined and focused young lady. Shannon was not timid or shy, she was meek.
After just a few practices Shannon consistently hit the ball with power. Her eye/ hand coordination was superb. On defense, she had cat like reflexes and effectively utilized her old mitt to field grounders and fly balls. More importantly, once she had the ball in her mitt she knew what to do with it. Shannon’s arm was accurate and her mind was always focused on the game. She quickly became my star shortstop.
Perhaps, Shannon’s greatest strength as a softball player was her positive attitude. Her teammates, like her coach, adored her. Not once did she criticize or belittle a teammate. Shannon always cheered on her teammates with many compliments and high fives.
When Shannon made a great play during a game, which she often did, she never strutted around or in any way tried to draw attention to herself. When I shouted praise to her from the dugout, she routinely responded with a brief, popcorn smile (i.e. the smile lasted about as long as a popcorn kernel popping) and then it was back to business. Shannon was an absolute delight to coach.
With only three weeks remaining before the softball season’s end, Shannon for the very first time missed a practice. When I asked one of her teammates why Shannon wasn’t there I learned that Shannon came from a family of migrant farm workers. Shannon and her family had moved on to harvest crops at a distant location. She would not be returning for any more practices or games. Her season was over. The news was disappointing to say the least.
I now suspect that when Shannon was not eating, sleeping or playing softball she was working in the fields with her family.
After Shannon’s departure, we were scheduled to play a very good team coached by my friend, LaTraia Jones, who was a former running back on the University of Wyoming’s football team and who would later become the head football coach at Mississippi Valley State. LaTraia was extremely competitive and I knew that any chance that we had of beating his team was substantially minimized without Shannon’s mitt, bat and popcorn smile. We did indeed lose the game.
I have not seen or heard from Shannon since the summer of 1980. Wherever you are, Shannon, thank you for teaching me that meek people, such as you, are not weak. You proved to me that the meek are powerful individuals who know and understand that their talents, productivity and success comes from within.