His response generating the rippling giggles he had wanted, Coach Dan moved to a location that was as equidistant as he could be to the six members of the Bark Bay High School fencing team. He raised his voice, words echoing off the tiled floor and concrete walls of the cafeteria.
“Everyone has their own reasons for being on this team. Some of you are more competitive than others — ” he made quick eye contact with Double-J, then Rex, then Annie — “others, not so much. But I’ve never had try-outs, never cut anyone who wanted to be on the team. So long as you put in the work at practice, show you want to be here, there’s a place for you.
“Just like there was a place for Myles.” He quickly scanned the faces of the fencing team members, saw emotions ranging from disgust to shame. “I’ve never met an athlete like Myles, even when I was competing in college. He had God-given talent, a work ethic equal to none, and a consuming desire to win.”
He scanned the team’s faces again. They were getting uncomfortable. “And I failed him.” The faces turned back to him, eyes filled with questions.
Coach Dan looked down. “I saw his talent, and decided what he needed was to be pushed. That was foolish — Myles could push himself, he didn’t need me to motivate him. The only thing I did was to keep him focused entirely on himselft, on what he could do. He was so popular here at school, he thought it was all about him. And I, foolishly, did nothing to help him think differently.”