|NYSCA 2013 Coach of the Year Eddie Garcia, middle, talks with his team during a recent game.|
Are you miserable in your job? Depressed about your bank account? Constantly complaining about the stock market, gas prices and the economy?
Well, if you were lucky enough to spend some time with Eddie Garcia like I was recently, you’d realize these pretty minor things that we allow on a daily basis to tick us off and get us down just aren’t worth it.
Garcia, this year’s National Youth Sports Coaches Association Coach of the Year, has a megawatt smile, an unquenchable passion for life, and an incredible desire to make a difference in the lives of the kids he coaches.
Oh yeah, he also has no hands.
And no feet.
And you complain about your life?
Earlier this year Garcia started feeling ill and thought he had caught strep throat from his wife Antoinette, who had it the previous week. He went home from his teaching job and passed out, unaware that he had necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria.
Just three days after going home with a sore throat doctors told his wife to round up the family because they didn’t expect him to survive the night.
But they didn’t know that Eddie is a fighter and that he has a heart bigger than the state of Nevada, where he has been a beloved fixture in the City of Henderson’s sports programs year after year.
Doctors put him in a coma that lasted two weeks, giving him just a 20 percent chance of surviving.
Eddie kicked those odds to the curb and continued to battle, despite what awaited next. And as he would quickly find out, the consequences of surviving it are beyond horrific.
They amputated his legs near the end of February. About a month later they took his right hand at the wrist; then his left hand at mid-forearm. In-between it all he celebrated his 38th birthday.
|Eddie Garcia with Emmy Martinez, VP, Membership Programs, NAYS|
And the man never stopped smiling. And he never for a single second thought that he wouldn’t be able to coach kids again.
Edward Saiz, the recreation program coordinator at the City of Henderson, went to visit Garcia in the hospital. “He asked me why I looked so sad,” Saiz said. “He told me not to be sad, that he was going to be ok. He told me, ‘I’m going to be fine, and I will be back. I don’t care what I have to do, I don’t care what it takes, but I will be back to coach summer basketball. And he was.’”
Doctors had told him he would be in the hospital for up to a year. Apparently, they didn’t know that Garcia’s spirit can’t be crushed, no matter what is thrown at him. He had kids to coach, teams to mold and lives to enhance. There was no time to waste lying around in a hospital bed.
Eddie was out of the hospital in three months and three weeks and soon after was back doing what he loves – coaching kids.
“All my life I’ve been overcoming challenges and it’s just one of those things, it’s just another challenge in life,” Garcia told the audience after receiving his Coach of the Year award at our organization’s annual Youth Sports Congress in San Diego. “And it’s not one of those things that is going to bring me down. It’s actually one of those things that I teach and preach to my kids: overcoming adversity and never giving up. What kind of person would I be if I showed the exact opposite and I ended up not fighting and didn’t continue to fight to overcome this adversity?”
Phantom pain makes it impossible for him to get a good night’s sleep. It’s painful to stand for long periods of time. And just getting out of the house in the morning is a long and exhausting process.
But he’s always up, always smiling and always ready to connect with his players.
He’s the coach every parent dreams of having their child play for.
So as you sit down with family and friends this Thanksgiving, I’d encourage you to think about Eddie’s approach to life and be thankful for what you have, and to embrace the moment since none of us knows what awaits tomorrow.
As Eddie said at our awards reception: “One thing that I would tell everyone is don’t wait until you have a situation where death has crossed your path to start living life. Live life now because you don’t know at what moment something may occur. I was in the greatest shape of my life right before I got sick. Some people never get to hear how you feel about them until they have passed on and you are saying it at their eulogy. I got to hear my eulogy, and not necessarily in the bad sense, because people would come and say, ‘Coach, I’m very successful and it’s because you taught me this, you taught me that. And because of you I am here today and thank you so much.’ Had this situation not have happened to me I would never had known the impact that I’ve had on kids’ lives. I really wouldn’t have. I don’t go in with the mentality that I am going to change lives but I found out that that is what has occurred.”
I’m thankful I got to meet Eddie. From the moment we were introduced and he wrapped his arms around me, it was easy to see that this guy is ultra special. The conversations I had with him and his amazing wife about life, sports and our journey in this world I’ll never forget.
Yes, Eddie no longer has hands or feet but he has a spirit that changes lives.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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