Outsider’s perspective (by Kevin Trudgeon): Lessons in pink

Posted: October 11, 2013

Of all the interviews I’ve done with James Wood volleyball coach Jill Couturiaux over the last few years, this quote may have been my favorite.

“As a coach I think it’s my job to not only teach the girls about the game of volleyball, but also to teach them life lessons and about the importance of giving back to the community and helping with a cause you really believe in.”

Given after the Colonels’ fifth annual Dig Pink volleyball match Tuesday — a pink-tastic event that is aimed at raising money and awareness to help in the fight against breast cancer — Couturiaux had been asked why she felt it was important to put on such an event every year.

Her response should be music to the ears of parents and school administrators everywhere.

While some may like to view high school sports through the prism of the famous Vince Lombardi mantra, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” it’s refreshing to find coaches who understand that their role extends beyond the playing field.

Athletes are at an impressionable age for not only their athletic growth, but also their social maturity in high school and their coaches have the unique ability to influence both.

Couturiaux obviously takes that responsibility seriously, and she’s not the only local coach to do so.

In the span of just three weeks we’ll have had three separate volleyball matches in the area that are about much more than the two teams on the court.

Last week Millbrook and coach Ashley Sutphin hosted a big fundraiser to benefit the organization Special Love, which provides support and resources to kids with cancer, during a home match against Sherando.

And next Thursday coach Lindsay Cole and the Handley Judges will hold their own Dig Pink match against Millbrook, with proceeds going to The Side-Out Foundation, which was founded by a high school volleyball coach and strives to educate young athletes by encouraging them to raise money for breast cancer research and teaching them the importance of community involvement.

And that’s just a small sampling.

Over the course of the school year a number of other area teams do their part to either support causes like the fight against breast cancer awareness — local girls’ basketball teams put on their own pink-centric events during the winter — or give back to the community.

These of course aren’t unique occurrences. Athletic events all over the country are splashed with pink in October, the official Breast Cancer Awareness month, and athletes at all levels have been helping the less fortunate and giving back to their communities for years.

But that doesn’t make the efforts by our local teams any less impressive.

Anyone who walked into James Wood High School Tuesday night was met by a pink-clad mob of people milling around tables set up with informational pamphlets, donated gift baskets being raffled off and bake sale items ... and that was just in the foyer.

Pink ribbons purchased for $1 by Colonel students decorated the dividing wall in Donald H. Shirley gym, pink balloons floated behind the team benches and the James Wood players each carried a sign with the name of someone they were playing for during pregame introductions.

Eventually a volleyball match was played and James Wood beat Millbrook 3-0, but that was far from the most impressive result of the night.

That honor went to the $4,073 that the Colonels raised, a figure that shows exactly what a group of people of any age can accomplish when they really want to make a difference.

Sounds like a pretty important life lesson.

— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star