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!