June 08, 2013

The angels are cheering in Heaven.

On Sunday, May 26, I was sitting around the table with family after stuffing my face at our Memorial Day cookout. My husband pulled Facebook up on his phone and said, "Frankie Conklin died!" My heart immediately sank.

Frankie Conklin was my cheerleading coach. He was a leader, a mentor and friend to thousands of girls in the Memphis area. He was a huge part of my youth and had a major impact on my life. He helped shape the woman I am today.

Being friends with Frankie and many of his cheerleaders on Facebook, my newsfeed was flooded with pictures and stories of the beloved "Big Guy". This reminded me of many stories of my own.

There was the time I was running Hawk laps. I fell hard on the concrete after colliding with another girl. My knees were scraped up, bloody and had gravel embedded in them. We were a week away from nationals. I didn't dare go back inside to complain. I finished my laps with blood running into my socks. When I finally entered the gym, Frankie grabbed the first aid kit. He cleaned my knees, sprayed them with antiseptic spray and slapped some gauze on there. I immediately got back to practice and had to get down on my knees on the hard gym floor over and over again. I have several scars on both of my knees from this day. All scars tell a story. Mine constantly remind me... Don't give up. Push through the pain. If you're not working hard, you're not working.

When I was in the 4th grade, I won my school's spelling bee. It was game day, so I was wearing my cheer jumpsuit. Frankie wasn't able to watch, but asked someone about it. They said, "I don't know her name, but it was one of your girls. She was in uniform." When I saw Frankie later that day in the hall, he was beaming and so proud. "I can't believe it. One of my cheerleaders won the spelling bee!"

Frankie was our coach first and friend second. He pushed us to our breaking point, but would be the first one to hug it out after he yelled at us. He taught me to never give less than 110%. Some people might say that's mathematically impossible. I'd have to disagree. Whatever you think your best is, you can always do better. That's giving it 110%.

When trying to find the words for this post, I wondered how I could get across just how wonderful he was to those who didn't know him. He was a big man with a big heart. He was a fun-loving dork who loved Bette Midler, Whataburger and rolling people's yards. He pushed us in indescribable ways. He had a gift and spent over thirty years of his life doing what he loved. I'm extremely grateful to have been one of Frankie's girls.

The plaque at his service says it all.

"It was not just about the white jackets and trophies, it was about the coaches and teammates we earned them with. Frankie made us work hard for everything and through the long practices, laughter and sometimes tears, we became better athletes and better people."

Since you won't be here to coach my daughter, I promise to instill the same discipline in her that you did in me. What an amazing legacy you leave behind. Job well done, Frankie!


Christina said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, but this is a great post. I feel the love for sure!! I had a science teacher like this for three years in high school. I hope every kid has a bond with a teacher or coach. They make such a big difference!

Becca May said...

Hi Misty! I am so so sorry that you've lost someone so close to you who had such an impact on your life. It is such a beautiful pledge, the last two sentences of your post. To carry on someone's message after they are gone is the BIGGEST honor we can give to out loved ones who go on before us. With that being said, Im also a former cheerleader. My favorite Aunt passed away last Tuesday. She was also the first coach I ever cheered for. She taught be how to work with other people, trust, encourage others, stay ambitious and motivated, and how to be positive. (Not to mention how to spell the words: a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e and d-e-f-e-n-s-e hahaha!) She was also the first person that I coached WITH when I got too old to cheer FOR her. At that time, she taught me how to lead, be assertive, patience, and how to be organized. To this day, these are the things that I use everyday. I am still, even in her death, trying to be HALF of the person she was. I hope that I can make her proud by carrying teaching others the things that she taught me. If I can reach enough people, I may just be able to change the world :)
Thanks for letting me vent. Again, I am so so sorry about your loss. xo
a fellow Tennessee cheerleader,

Meghan said...

I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing mentor and coach. I am sure he touched many lives.

Kelly @ turned UP to ELEVEN! said...

I love that you wrote this and love that you had SUCH a positive experience. The world needs more coaches like Frankie. I'm so sorry for your loss.

I wish my dance squad coach would have been even a quarter of the coach he sounds like he was. My senior year, I was captain, my coach never showed up to a single practice. Only her assistants. by the end of the year I was running the squad, hoarse and unable to call out counts at one point. But I was passionate and never gave up.

Coaches are very special people - I think all too often these days coaches are too easy on kids and they don't get the benefit of the drive, determination and like you said pushing through the pain to realize their truth strength. You have always struck me as a trooper, and this story totally solidifies that :) oxox

Kathrin@shopschoolsleep said...

sorry for your loss :( as much as we "hate" our coaches in whatever sport, only later do we realize the lessons and skills coaches instill.

Because Shanna Said So said...

He is smiling down at this post! What an inspiration he was in your life and in so many. This is what a legacy is called right here!!

Karen M. Peterson said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but what a great tribute to someone who meant so much to you.