Steamboat Springs A range of emotions tested Bruce Alston's resolve Tuesday as he sat down to write letters to each of the players in the Steamboat Springs girls basketball program.
The letters were his way of letting his players know he would not be their coach in the upcoming season. He resigned that role earlier this spring and the high school is already busy searching for his replacement for the 2002-03 season.
"It's hard. I've built a lot of good relationships, made a lot of friends, and I'm going to miss it," Alston said. "I had all kinds of reasons pulling me back, but mostly that I didn't want to let my players down."
For that reason, the coach decided that an announcement from the school or a notice in the newspaper just wasn't enough. He took it upon himself to write each of his players and offer a more personal resignation and wish them luck in their future endeavors.
"I know that he really battled to make a decision," Steamboat Springs Athletics Director Bruce Crowhurst said. "He was really dedicated to this program and it wasn't an easy choice to leave."
Alston has been the head coach of the program for the past seven years. He has brought his passion for the sport to the court for the past several years, but it was evident the task was not an easy one for the coach who maintains a busy schedule outside of the school.
Alston, who is one of a few coaches that was hired outside of the school, runs a small window distributorship in Steamboat and also works as a personal and business mediator. He is also a counselor.
He said it was his passion for the game of basketball that drew him to the girls coaching job seven seasons ago. That passion remains strong today.
However, he said the demands of his regular jobs and his personal life have started to conflict with his love for coaching basketball.
"I'm a basketball junkie," he said. "But I have to make some big sacrifices and my family also has to make some big sacrifices My wife has been a saint during my time as a head coach," Alston said. "She has been at every game both home and on the road."
Alston said he has been able to dedicate himself to coaching during the season but often feels guilty he isn't giving enough time and effort during the offseason when players need to train and play to stay competitive with the other teams in the state.
This isn't the first time Alston has faced a choice on whether to continue to coach. Two years ago, Alston resigned at the end of the season but then changed his mind before the following season started.
Outside of the personal pressures, Alston has also had to deal with his own coaching quirks. He said he couldn't stand to disappoint his players or the fans that came out to support the team.
But he has come to learn during his career that disappointing people is just a part of being a coach.
"People are disappointed when you don't win, players are disappointed when they don't get to play in the games," Alston said. "It's the hard part of coaching. Some guys can do it, but it's the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night."
So in one last-ditch attempt to keep from disappointing his players, Alston sat down Tuesday and tried to explain his position in letters addressed to the players in his programs.
Meanwhile, at the high school Crowhurst is already well into the search for a new basketball coach. The deadline to apply for the job was also Tuesday. Crowhurst said he had already received some strong applications for the position and he expects to fill the spot soon.