When I used to do this blog, sometimes I would pick out a word, somewhat uncommon, to describe a match Calumet Christian had just played. Usually it was a work like desultory or perfunctory, as I often used this technique after Calumet had gone through the motions to defeat a significantly weaker team. I was trying to be clever; I never really came up with one word for exciting matches, big victories or the like. So why try to use one word to describe the volleyball coaching career of Melinda Carr? (I almost wrote “…describe the career….” – how parochial.) Well, love is a big word. Not long, but very, very deep. And it’s the word (well, one of the words) that comes to mind when I think of Melinda.
Melinda loves volleyball, sure, but throughout all the years I spent with her and the program, I never thought she loved it more than what was fitting. She honed her craft, picked the brains of other coaches, read her volleyball magazines and used the natural gifts God had given her, sure, but she always seemed to communicate, mostly non-verbally, that she understood that volleyball was a game, an arena God had put her in to do greater things.
She loved her players. I saw in her relationship with the girls that she loved them – loved them when they were not very lovable, loved them when they didn’t love her, loved them when they didn’t care as much about playing well as she did, loved them when they were showing the opposite of love to each other. As a father of three girls I understand these challenges, yet Melinda loved other peoples’ daughters like this, like her own.
Melinda loved the social aspect of the game, befriending coaches, officials, tournament organizers, camp administrators, opposing team’s parents, opposing team’s players, and fans, always seeing someone she knew at seemingly every venue and function to which the team took her.
But it was never unclear from where this love came. She loves her Lord. She did all these things out of an evident joyful submission to the God which she served. Her passionate desire to help her players become closer to Jesus or to know Him as she did saturated most everything she did in volleyball. Which brings me to another word that comes to mind when I think of Melinda – discipleship. Not as soft and fuzzy of a word as love, so it’s often neglected. Neglected because it’s hard work, the hard work of daily pouring oneself into others, oftentimes without the results being evident immediately, or even ever being seen by the mentor. Melinda didn’t shy away from it – no, Melinda poured herself into her players and their families, players and families that occasionally didn’t appreciate her very much. She knew, and we knew that she knew, that this was the most important part of her coaching.
Melinda, by retiring this year, has made the statement that volleyball, while very important to her, is something she is willing to sacrifice for the next thing God has called her to. We all know that retirement to Melinda does not mean ceasing from work – it just means moving on the newest stage in her life. So now Willy, Chris, Eva, Landry, Bryce, Peyton, Ty, Zane, Stephanie, David, Reagan, McKinley, Jeremy, Michelle, Lexys, Sydney, Quinn, Piper, and Rowan, Rachel, JD, Rylee, Myka, Ellyott, Alli, Andy, Pax, various and sundry siblings, parents, nephews, nieces and any future grandchildren will have her full-time in the upcoming years. I sure they will appreciate it. I’m sure they appreciate her now.