Trust me when I say that I wanted to be sad. I wanted to be mad. I wanted to scream to the heavens and ask God why my dad, who was only 67, had to die? I was ready to have one big pity party. But my dad wasn’t having it. He might have been dying, but he still had one more thing he wanted to do and it was going to take all of us as a family to help make his last wish come true.
My dad, Ted Waters, was well known in the community for his coaching. My first memories of my dad are being with him at the baseball field. Growing up, we spent so much time at the ballpark that I even got my first kiss from a player on his Little League team.
He loved coaching for the city and continued all through his grandchildren’s teams. He adored being on the field. Ask anyone who had my dad as a coach and they will tell you that Coach Ted didn’t just teach you the fundamentals of the sport, he taught you life lessons on that field.
That is another thing about my dad. He never gave up on anyone. He knew that every person had the potential to be something great. Trust me, it is really hard to doubt yourself when you have a coach who shows you unconditionally that believes in you and that in his heart he knows that you have great things to offer on the field and in life.
A year ago my dad stopped coaching because of his health, but he never stopped cheering for the players. So it was no surprise when my dad told us that the one thing he wanted to do before he died was to go to John Paul II Catholic High School’s first football game of the season. It was being played on a Saturday night. My nephew Duncan plays on the team and my daughter Aidan is the team manager. Dad loved watching them and would beam whenever he told people that next year he would have two grandsons playing on the field and three granddaughters at the school cheering the team on. But my dad’s love for the school went beyond his grandchildren. He loved that school so much because of all of the students that went there. My dad could be found attending just about every sporting event at the school. He was not only known as Papa to his grandchildren, but affectionately became Papa to all the kids at the school.
Get him to the game
Together as a family, we made calls and put the plan in motion to get him to that first football game. My dad was too weak to walk up the bleachers so the school hosting the game was kind enough to allow us to drive my dad in a car onto the grassy area around the field. That way he would be close enough to be able to see the game while sitting in the car. We had enough portable oxygen tanks delivered so that Dad would be able to have enough oxygen to get him through the game.
As the day of the game drew closer, we all waited with bated breath to see if he would be strong enough to make it. The day of the game, my brother-in-law helped my sweet dad into his favorite John Paul II Catholic High School t-shirt and we loaded the oxygen tanks in the car and gently helped my father up the stairs and into the car.
After we got him settled in the car and triple-checked that the oxygen was working, I loaded up my kids into my car and we drove in a caravan to the game. It was a very surreal drive. My heart was aching as the reality hit me that this would be the last time I would ever go out to a game with my dad. I made a decision at that moment to not be sad but instead take in every moment of the night with him.
We got to the game and parked the car in a spot under a tree that my brother-in-law had so lovingly picked out earlier in the day for my dad. Dad could see the field and the team perfectly from where we were and there was open space in front of us where the young grandchildren got to play. The grown-ups gathered chairs around the side of the car where dad was sitting and we sat beside him and watched the game. It was one of the most precious moments I have ever experienced.
The JPII football team hadn’t won a game in almost two years. Most of the boys on that team knew my dad and they knew that he believed in them. They knew that if they played with heart and together as a team, they could win. You could see their determination to win for the man watching from the car on the hill, the man they all called Papa.
Tears and prayers
At halftime, the JPII Panthers were winning and had played a great first half. My sister, brothers, mom and I were all talking to my dad up on the hill, checking to make sure he was comfortable and able to stay for the second half of the game. Suddenly I looked up and unable to find words, I tapped my sister’s shoulder and pointed to the fence at the end of the field. Half-time was almost over, but rather than warming up on the field, what we saw was the entire John Paul II Catholic High School football team walking off the field and up the hill to see my dad.
Some parents saw their sons leaving the field and wondered where on earth they were going, so they left the bleachers and came over to the car where my father sat. As the adults looked on, these young men, who still had half a game to play, lined up before my dad and, one by one, gave him a hug. These young men, hot and sweaty from playing, bent down and held my dad, telling him how much they loved him and how much he meant to them. As I heard the words “I love you, Papa,” coming from these boys as they embraced my dad, I could not contain my tears.
Tears streamed from my eyes and the eyes of all of the parents who were there. What do you say to a group of young men who gather around to tell your father they love him? One of the boys said, “I think we should take a knee and pray.” And there in front of my father, the boys knelt down to pray.
Before the prayer began, out of the corner of my eye I saw the tallest man I have ever seen walking up the hill towards us. There was a stillness as he approached the car and took my dad’s hand. This man, who happened to be in town attending a church service on the other side of town, said he “had a feeling he was supposed to be at the game.” The man was Bishop Gregory Parkes, the new bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese. I can’t help but feel that a miracle was given to all of us that night when he showed up.
He prayed with my dad and he prayed over the boys. I looked at these young men and thought how lucky we are to have young people like this growing up and going out into the world to carry on my dad’s legacy. With tears in their eyes, the boys got up and headed back down to the field.
On that night, for the first time in almost two years, John Paul II Catholic High School won the game. As soon as the game was over, the team shook hands with their opponents and then charged back up the hill to give Papa one more hug and to share the victorious moment with him.
Going home that night, my dad was happy and so peaceful. I will always remember how at peace he was in the days that followed that game.
On Sept. 5, my dad died with my sister, brother-in-law, mom and me beside him. I am heartbroken, but I know that he is in a better place. At the service we had a few days later, I was moved by the number of people who showed up to honor my dad. Looking around the church, which was so crowded it was standing room only, I knew that he was a man who had loved and touched so many people.
But my eyes settled on the third pew in the church. The entire row was taken up by students from John Paul II Catholic High School. Looking at them that day, I realized that my dad’s legacy will live far beyond his own grandchildren It will be carried by these amazing young people who were able to experience his genuine love and kindness. I hope they will honor him by remembering the genuine love and kindness they felt from him is now something that they need to go out and share with all they meet. That would be the greatest possible tribute to him.
The night after my dad died, the JPII Panthers played in a big game against St. Francis is Gainesville. My daughter called me after the game all choked up.
“Mom, we won. We won the game 9-7. Don’t you think Papa is smiling in Heaven?” she asked.
Yes, my sweet girl, he is smiling down from Heaven but not just because the boys won their game. He is smiling because they believed in themselves as a team just as he always knew they could.
John Paul II Hosting the 1st official Big Bend High School Football Game of the 2012 Season Brookwood School in Thomasville, Georgia will face the Panthers for its first interstate match-up on Saturday, Aug 25th, 7.30 pm. JOHN PAUL II home games are played at beautiful ‘Southwood Stadium’ next door to the campus.
New Nike uniforms in store for the Football Team JOHN PAUL II Panthers will take on a new look this year dressed in new NIKE uniforms and shiny gold helmets. The team has chosen to model its uniform selection after the great Catholic University of Notre Dame (recently voted Best college football uniforms). The players are excited to adopt these traditional gold helmets as a symbol of the new Panther football program under new coach Scott Houston.
Join Us For a Pre-game Tailgate Party! Family and friends will gather under the oaks on the front lawn of the John Paul II beautiful Southwood campus for a catered tailgate party 5:30pm – 7:00pm before each home game. Families and friends are invited to enjoy refreshments, music, face-painting and the Tallahassee Museum Panther! The tailgate offers convenient parking and a chance to cheer on the Panthers during their PANTHER PROWL as they walk over to the stadium. Reserve your meal today! Call 850-201-5744 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know the amount of meals to reserve for you.
Football 5th Quarter Party Immediately following the home games, The Wharf food truck will offer a catered fish fry under the oaks for $10 per plate. (Catfish plates with tea). Join the hungry players, students, families and fans for a post-game celebration. Everyone welcome- Call 850-201-5744 or email email@example.com to let us know you’re coming!
The JOHN PAUL II assistant coaches instruct with the same standards as the JOHN PAUL II faculty. They will exhibit professionalism and sportsmanship at the highest level, reinforcing our program as the most highly regarded football program in the Big Bend. We’ll always coach as if you are watching – we welcome you to attend and observe any practice . All our coaches have completed training in sportsmanship and concussion safety.
The John Paul II Panthers are blessed with such an excellent staff that will help us reach our ambitious program goals.
|Offensive line/Tight ends/linebackers; Experienced coach and former college football player (Valdosta State)|
|Offensive line/Centers & snappers/defensive line ; Experienced coach and former college football player|
|Receivers/defensive backs ; Former college football player (FAMU) and current player in Arena football league (Knoxville)|
|Academics/Scouting/QB's ; Returning coach and former college football player (Delaware)|
|Coaching intern; Receivers/linebackers/kickers|
|Coaching Intern; Running backs/linebackers|
|Coaching Intern; Receivers/defensive backs|
|Strength & Conditioning ; trainer with ISSM at FSU (Institute of Sports Science and Medicine)|
Team Managers: Ani Garrigo, Beatrice Menjor, Patrica Moes, Aidan Newsome, Adri Quintero and Kelly Sheppard.Visit our Photo Gallery on Facebook
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