Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Aurora Past one end zone, just outside the track and just under the Legacy Stadium scoreboard sat Bob Hiester somewhere in the confines of the Cracker Jack box locker room, giving one final postgame speech.
The door propped open by a red Adidas bag offered a glimpse of a speech not built on emotion.
No, Hiester’s voice didn’t crack, and it didn’t rise. It did tell the Steamboat Springs boys lacrosse team members how proud he was of them.
It didn’t sound like a speech from a guy calling it a career after 45 years of shaping the game of lacrosse in Colorado. Should they create a Mount Rushmore dedicated to Colorado lacrosse, Hiester likely would be carved into the rock.
The speech, though, was telling.
It wasn’t filled with raw emotion. It was, in essence, about life.
Watching Hiester after Steamboat lost, 6-4, to Air Academy in the semifinals of the Class 4A state playoffs was about as telling of Hiester as any anecdote.
The longtime coach stood on the sideline, expression unchanged. Legions of people slowly made their way over to shake his hand. Several gave hugs. Several shared stories.
All who came up in one way or another said, “Thank you for what you did for lacrosse here” or “Thank you for getting me involved in the game.”
Hiester was like a politician at a parade, but he wasn't.
Certainly, there was lots of excitement around this game and Hiester’s career, but at each extended hand or hug, Hiester’s expression always showed gratitude and always carried a smile.
He thanked people, shook hands and finally got to the locker room.
There, he did what he has done best for more than 40 years. He taught. He expressed gratitude to this year’s team. He told them how fun it had been for him coaching them this year. He told them they were one of the fun groups. He told them that from this point on, Steamboat Springs High School is among the elite of Class 4A lacrosse.
Then he told them something that tells you everything about Bob Hiester. The man first and foremost is an educator. His principles in the classroom and on the field were built on the basics. You can’t understand complex math without first understanding simple formulas. You can’t advance to the Class 4A Final Four without first learning how to throw the ball.
So as Hiester’s voice remained calm, he said something profound yet simple.
“If this is the worst thing that ever happens in your lives, you’ll have a great life,” he said. “This is a great lacrosse team. You’ll look back and realize you could have done some things different here or there. That’s a motivation for when things get tough in life. When you think back and think, ‘Maybe I could have done something different,’ maybe you’ll do something different and that will help you be successful.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com