Here’s some insight on my ongoing journey as an educator and baseball coach.
As I sat hysterically crying in the passenger seat of my own Ford Focus, the uncontrollable sobs combined with the flowing tears permeating the shirt of my then-girlfriend Rachel. I never thought this day would come and now that it was here, I couldn’t help but to be weakened to an emotional mess. It happened so unexpectedly and abruptly, and I had no time to prepare for my emotional response. When I broke down and cried for the first time in front of Rachel, I guess it came as no surprise. I would remember this day forever, for positive or negative reasons, and it signaled a closure to one of the most important aspects of my life.
The day I learned that our baseball team, the Kutztown University Golden Bears, was eliminated from playoff contention during my senior year was a day like no other. Our barring from obtaining a regional bid and continuing our rollercoaster season meant I was no longer a college athlete or an official baseball player. This may seem miniscule on a grander scale of potential problems in my life but to me, it was the most difficult situation that I had endured in a long time. It meant more than just not playing a game anymore. I had been playing baseball since I could walk, and my life had revolved around the game. This event indicated the end of the most prominent chapter in my life, and I thought that nothing could ever take its place or provide me with relief from this personal tragedy. At this moment when I sat sobbing, this is exactly what I thought. However, things are not typically as bad as they immediately seem.
What made this situation even more difficult is that we weren’t supposed to get bounced from the playoffs. We were Kutztown baseball. We were supposed to acquire the regional bid and continue our season for at least another day. However, life doesn’t always work out how you want it to. We were predicted to advance, but Shippensburg University somehow beat us out for the playoff nomination (they would eventually go on to win regionals and advance to the World Series in Cary, N.C.). Even though we beat Shippensburg three out of four times during the year and had a better conference and overall record than them, they were chosen to represent the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) instead of us. Since this came as a surprise to everyone at the university, no one expected this outcome. I wasn’t the least bit prepared from a baseball or a personal standpoint.
Sports are capable of teaching life lessons and changing the lives of participants forever. Eventually, our exclusion from advancement and my personal ending of an era allowed me to reflect on life after baseball. What could possibly fulfill this current void? I needed to find something that could bring this satisfaction and purpose back to my life. Accomplishing anything that is difficult or meaningful takes dedication and time. This personal battle was no different. The revelation of my purpose in life took years after this incident to begin to come to fruition.
I credit baseball, especially what I thought was the end of this sport affecting my life, with my decision to become a teacher and attempt to impact youth in a positive way. While I had my B.A. degree in English, I couldn’t find a meaningful job or an avenue in life that was fulfilling to me. After that fateful day in my Ford Focus, it took about two years for me to uncover the idea of embarking on a journey that would change my life forever. During the summer of 2015, I decided to go back to school to acquire a teaching certificate in secondary English. When I first made this decision, I wasn’t fully invested in the idea, and I viewed it as a means to obtain a respectable full-time job with good benefits. I had no idea that this journey would become so much more than just the acquisition of a job.
In the fall of 2015, I was enrolled in classes at Penn State Harrisburg and scheduled to be a student observer at Lower Dauphin Middle School. It was part of the program, and I knew it was a requirement that I had to fulfill. However when I began observing and working with students, I realized that I had absolutely made the right decision to become a teacher. I had finally found a purpose in life, and that purpose became the motivation to become the best teacher and person that I could be. There’s a saying that if you are going to do something, you should do it with conviction. That was exactly the motivation I had to strive to leave the greatest impact on the largest number of people.
It was fulfilling to know that I was helping students and becoming a good role model both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether it was tutoring two students at the middle school, helping my host-teacher’s English students with their writing or setting a positive example of how to treat people, I knew that I was able to leave a lasting impact on people and striving to do my best every day. It was during this time that I had a premonition of sorts. I conceived the idea that I could expand this positive impact that I was having in the classroom to another facet of life. I realized this expansion could relate to the baseball field. I could now use my experience with teaching and equate it to coaching. While I am fresh into the coaching realm, I know that it is another mode that can be used to help young people.
This is my documented journey of what is just surely the beginning of a fulfilling teaching and coaching career. This expedition that I am now on has already had a definite impact on my life and the lives of the children that I have worked with. I have learned from my own experiences, and I know that this profession is not going to be easy. Comparably, baseball was never easy, especially the finality of my career, but the adversity and knowledge gained along the way are the most significant gifts that I obtained. They say that when one door closes another is sure to open. This is the impact that the current journey will have on my teaching. I plan to convey this positive mindset to students and convince them that they can achieve anything they desire through perseverance and never giving up.
By Billy Felo