I wanted to quickly share my appreciation for Coach Steve Jacobs and the entire Jr. Zebra football organization for allowing me to participate in their first night back to practice Monday night, it was the first time on the field since the tragic passing of Coach Eric Morales last Thursday evening. I was asked to speak with the football players, parents and coaches about ways to emotionally process what happened, help identify some of the emotions many of the young men were undoubtedly feeling and hopefully help them recognize that there is no playbook for events like these that occur in life. We were able to talk about the fact that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but that is important to feel like they can share their emotions regardless of what they are, or when they may present themselves. The young men were incredibly attentive, and respectful, it’s no doubt that many of them will remember this for the rest of their lives, so I was grateful for the direction of the Jr. Zebra board in putting together the evening to help the youth, and the adults, try and work through what I can’t even imagine were some difficult last few days.
Several people shared some wonderful thoughts of Coach Morales and while there were definitely tears, as would be expected, we were also able to laugh, and see how we can all keep him alive in our hearts, and minds (for those in attendance, you’ll never hear about Dip’n Dots again without thinking about him!). We talked briefly about how differently we can view an event, and just because somebody felt something different from their friend, it doesn’t mean that what they were feeling was wrong, or not important. I used an example of asking how many of the young men played video games...all of them, and how many of them liked a ‘jump scare’ (a game where something comes out of nowhere eliciting, at least in my case, a frightened yell!) which was many of them, versus how many didn’t like jump scares at all? The point being that we can all experience the same situation differently.
The strength of the community was evident as well. There were chaplains from the Placer County Sheriff's department as well clergy and additional chaplains and volunteers from several Lincoln churches on hand. Coach Morales’ family was there, and his daughter shared a touching story of her father’s generosity. And there were Coach Morales’ fellow coaches there with the boys as well.
Coach Morales is one of the few people who literally died doing what he loved, coaching football. I wanted to convey to the young men that coaches don’t coach simply because they love an oblong object with white laces (a football), they coach because they love working with the youth, with those boys that were sitting there that evening, and it was clear from many of the stories shared that Coach Morales truly loved the youth. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, as well as the entire Jr. Zebra organization, from the players, cheerleaders, coaches and family members. It was one of those moments where the community truly came together and I was proud to have settled in Lincoln some 24 years ago. My prayer is that we can all take a moment of self-reflection as is so often the case when tragedy strikes, and decide in this moment to try a little harder to be a better whatever it is that you want to be, father, mother, son, daughter, grandparent, employee, church-goer, whatever it is that you want to improve, and that you gather your own family a little closer, make more of an effort to be present, and to spend time with those you love. I believe this is truly how you can honor the life of Coach Morales.
There is a gofundme account set up to help with the costs of Coach Morales’ funeral for anyone interested in donating.https://www.gofundme.com/LJZCoachMorales