I am not what you would call “athletic.”
I never have been and I never will be.
I don’t understand a majority of sports – except basketball.
My dad coached basketball my entire childhood, and into my early adult years.
If I close my eyes, I can picture myself walking up the stairs leading to the gym where the smell of perspiration and determination come to life again. For me, the sound of basketball shoes squeaking on the gym floor has never bothered me. It’s almost soothing.
As a little girl, I sat in the hard, wooden bleachers for years, watching my dad sit on fold-out chairs on the sidelines. I heard him yell out plays time and time again. I saw his face gleaming with sweat when the game was tied and went into overtime.
It wasn’t about the WIN for my dad. No, it was making sure his team understand the game of basketball. It was making sure his players knew how to play as a team. It was about being respectful to the refs and opposing team.
Being a teacher and coach his entire life, my dad formed a bond with his basketball players. And, until this day, whenever one of his former players sees him around Defiance, it’s always, “Hi Coach Naymik!” Even the former players who are now in their 40s still see my dad as their coach.
But to me, he has always been my dad.
The last junior high basketball game I attended was in 2000 – that’s when he retired from coaching. It was time to let someone else take the reins and guide the boys.
Jumping ahead to March 28, 2015 — many of the Defiance High School boys on the varsity team were under the age of 4 in 2000. My dad remembers one – Wes Detter. Wes’s dad, Dan Detter assisted the seventh and eighth grade boys’ coaches in 2000 alongside my dad.
“I remember when Dan would bring Wes to the practices and he would run around,” my dad said the evening of March 28. “I would also see him shooting hoops in his front yard and call him, ‘LeBron!’”
Another player, Katwan Singleton was a student of his during his final year of teaching math at Defiance Junior High School.
“He was a real quiet kid, but he was a good kid,” my dad said of Katwan.
On March 28, these boys who were just 4 and younger in 2000 played the game of a lifetime as they took to the court at The Ohio State University. In front of thousands of screaming fans, they beat Central Cleveland Catholic in a nail-biter game.
They played with class. They played with determination. They played with heart.
And my dad, Mr. Jim Naymik – COACH – couldn’t have been more proud.
That evening, my dad and I sat entered our local sports bar and immediately sat down directly in front of the television screen. For the next 10 minutes, our eyes never left the screen. We, along with my mom and my husband, cheered and screamed when the Defiance Bulldogs won.
Everyone else in the bar looked at us – but no one had to ask.
“See my shirt? That’s where I am from! I taught and coached there!” he told the patrons with a smile on his face. “I know those boys!”
And now, everyone in the state of Ohio knows those boys too. Way to go Defiance Bulldogs!