Goodman Shaffer: Remembering a special softball coach
If you’ve played a sport for any amount of time, then you’ve most likely been impacted by a special coach.
For me, that coach was Charlotte Anderson.
When “Coach Char” passed away at the age of 77 last week, she left behind a loving family by blood, and another, much larger family bonded by the game of softball.
In a teaching and coaching career that spanned nearly three decades, I was lucky to play for Anderson for four years at Wyalusing Valley High School, along with my sister and some of my best friends. We experienced three of her 10 career conference titles, including an undefeated regular season in 1986.
Over the last 25 years, I never once ran into Charlotte without her telling me how proud she was of our teams. She remembered her players by name, and games down to the winning hit or the final out. She spoke with love and pride about all of her players from all of her teams over the years; it seemed like nothing made her happier than to remember the good ol’ days.
Anderson’s players remember her as a character: wearing her sunglasses, lollipop in her mouth, shirt-sleeves rolled up onto her shoulders, waving runners around third base; we remember her bringing the team together for pep talks between innings, and raising her hands with us in victory.
We remember sun-loving Charlotte counting down the days through winter Phys-Ed classes until we could practice outside. She would orchestrate pre-season sliding drills on burlap sacks in the high school hallways, and fielding drills with golf balls on the gym floor.
Charlotte was a fun and committed coach who loved the game, not just the X’s and O’s, but the values that sports instilled in us – dedication, goal-setting and teamwork. She offered never-ending encouragement, and at times, some tough love.
And she did love us, win or lose, like family.
Her interest in us didn’t end with graduation. For decades, she’s given her program’s alumni, including doctors and nurses, teachers and even softball coaches, words of wisdom and inspiration, encouraging us to do our best in all aspects of life, from sports to business to family.
When she lost her legs due complications from diabetes, she simply climbed aboard a golf cart and kept on going, just the way she taught us to deal with the challenges in athletics and in life.
That’s what great coaches do – they impact their players in ways that may not even be apparent at the time, giving us gifts of character, work ethic, and attitude that stay with us forever.
Health issues may have robbed Charlotte of her ability to walk in recent years, but nothing could take away her love of her family and her players; and nothing could take away her great memories on the ball field.
Somewhere on a softball diamond in heaven, Coach Char is back on two feet, waving players around third base, sending them home.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at email@example.com. Her column appears on Tuesdays.