One of the things I'm learning as I keep getting older on this wonderful journey of life is the importance of my connections to the other people in my life.
My family, my friends, my co-workers, and my teammates and players all play a special role in my journey.
Another is that the more complex our lives seem to get, the more things we have to juggle and that need our attention, the less frequent our connections outside our immediate families seem to be.
I ran in to an old friend who was telling me a story about his Loyola College soccer family. He was sharing stories about one of his teammates that was the heart and soul of the team. He was the central midfielder, an above average player on a team full of superstar players, but played a significant role in the success of the team both on and off the field.
During the game, he was the coach on the field, providing the proper mix of directions and motivations to his teammates. Off the field he was a close friend of each of them.
Sadly, he passed away recently. One of his greatest accomplishments of his time here was he served as the bond that kept this group together. His coach, his athletic trainer, and many of his teammates and their families proved that when they stopped what they were doing in their own lives and made the trek to Florida to celebrate his life.
At my friend's funeral last month, one of the things that struck me the most was the gathering of coaches, players and parents of both of our Wolves teams - the Black Wolves and Wolfpack - to pay tribute to him and provide support for his family.
Our time together on the pitch or sidelines as we watched these young boys transform into young men had provided a connection that we will forever share and to see it reflected in the support at this gathering was heartwarming.
What made it even more heartening was to see his son's new team show the same respect and love for him as the coaching staff and his teammates from his college team made the 2 ½ hour drive down 95 to be there for their teammate and their new extended family.
I look forward to this weekend when many of my teammates and friendships that have developed from competing with and against each other in soccer come together to celebrate our 20th anniversary of indoor tournaments.
I've played the game for twice that long, but the connections that I've made playing for the Black, Red, and now Grey Wolves are some of the best anyone could ask for.
One of my favorite poems was written by Notre Dame Football player Alton Maiden after a trip to Ireland for their game against Navy that he titled "The Dash".
It ends with the line, "So when you begin to chart your life, make sure you are on a positive path, because people may forget your birth and death, but they will never forget your dash."
The connections you make through sports are a big part of that "dash." Make the most of them.