“Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know that they are happy.”
On April 30, 2016, hundreds of people gathered at the new football stadium bearing Coach Jim Sochor’s name, and celebrated his amazing life. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to return to my alma mater, the University of California, Davis, to pay my respects to my college football coach. I don’t have nearly enough space in this post to share the many amazing words and remembrances spoken in his honor, but here are a few highlights:
“His vision was infectious.”
“He inspired me to be my best.”
“He always said, ‘Stay focused on what you can control and forget about everything else’.”
“Winning was never that important.”
However, one comment stood out above all others for me. It came from Paul Hackett. He was sharing a story about attending an athletic competition with Coach Sochor in 1967. It pitted U.C. Davis against San Francisco State. Paul explained that Coach Sochor was the new assistant football coach at Davis at that time. He also told the audience that Coach Sochor had been the quarterback for San Francisco State from 1957 to 1959, had led them to three league championships, and had whooped Davis 48 to 0 in both his junior and senior years. Coach Sochor went on to coach football at San Francisco State from 1960 to 1965.
As Coach Sochor had spent nearly ten years of his life immersed in San Francisco State athletics, Paul asked innocently, “Who are you going to rout for?” Coach responded simply and quietly, “I am an Aggie now.” I can imagine the slight grin on his face as he said it. One of the speakers at the event called it, “Sochor cool.” Coach Sochor wore that grin a lot. It was as if he knew something that you didn’t, but he was eager to teach you.
Nearly fifty years later, Coach Sochor is still teaching, even in his death. I believe every single person at the Jim Sochor Tribute learned something about how to live fully, how to give freely, and how to love completely. I know I learned so much.
But it was Coach Sochor’s words, “I am an Aggie now” that were the biggest lesson for me that day. Coach was teaching me to live in the moment, not in the past (no matter how great or awful the past may have been). He was teaching me to embrace change fully and enthusiastically. He was saying: If you’re going to do something, jump in with both feet. Get all the way in. There is no going back. With five words and a sly smile, Coach Sochor was teaching me how to lead by being an example to others.
Perhaps most importantly though, while sitting in the hot April sun in the stadium named after him, listening to nine distinguished speakers tell us how Coach Sochor had so positively impacted their lives, he was still teaching us. He was still teaching me. His big message to me that day was that I am an Aggie now. You see, it’s been nearly thirty five years since I last laced up my pads and took to the field for the Aggies, and I have allowed much of the ‘Aggie’ spirit – of trust, unity and togetherness – that used to burn so brightly within me to slowly die out. In five simple words, Coach reminded me, in his quiet but clear manner, that I am an Aggie now. He showed me by his example that I must stay engaged with the football program, the University, and the entire Aggie community. He taught me that it’s my turn to live fully, give freely, and love completely.
Coach Sochor was the one who created Aggie Pride. The greatest thing he taught me on April 30, 2016 was this. It’s my turn to help carry on his legacy… because I am an Aggie now.
Rest in peace, Coach,
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