Twenty years ago this week, while my dad and I were coaching at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA we experienced something that we will never forget and that we still talk about every October. In fact, we talked about it tonight.
After a typical practice, two of our players, Donna Gondringer and Krisden Tanabe, made a trip to the Huntington Beach mall to buy jackets and get their ears pierced before going back to Donna's house. Sitting in his car in front of the house waiting for them was Thomas White, a former boyfriend that Krisden had recently broken up with. Donna continued to walk into the house and left Krisden standing at the end of the driveway and Thomas standing in the street behind an open car door. Moments later there was an explosion and Donna sprinted out of the house and found Krisden down on her knees slumped over, the victim of a shotgun blast. Thomas White then turned the shot gun around and killed himself.
I remember calling players on our team and explaining to them what happened and all of us wondering what we should do next. We all tried to think about the last things we said to her since we would never have a chance to say anything else.
When we finally all got together, Donna and Stacee Johnson both made passionate pleas for everyone to dedicate the season to Krisden and told us that Krisden would not want us just to persevere but would want us to go out and kick ass. And from that day forward we did just that!
We went 37-1 that year and won every tournament we played in, including the California State Championship in March. In the state semi final game Bits Sirchia hit a 50 footer right before halftime that changed the entire game. When the ball left her hand it looked like it was going to be way left of the basket but suddenly made an unexplainable turn and then hit nothing but net. In the locker room Bits said out loud what we were all thinking, "Krisden helped out on that one!"
When we returned home, the first stop was at the cemetery, where the girls gave Krisden her championship medal, shirt, and flowers. They were placed right next to the shirts, trophies, and medals that we had won in previous tournaments. It was a stunning visual reminder of a dominating season and we would have gladly traded it all to spend just one more day with our friend and teammate.
Love your family, your friends and your teammates because you just never know what's going to happen.