Loveprints should begin at home, and in my case, it was wearing a huge smile and running shoes. Robert Smith was larger than life to me, in his ability to bring the world into our house, and to hold our hand while leading us into the world. I remember watching him refuse to have his Black Knights football jersey cut off when they tried to treat the broken collarbone he injured in a game. I thought, THAT is awesome! I remember seeing him with free weights in the back yard, and asking why it made him faster. (It made him STRONGER, which made him faster). I recognized early that he was a student, AND an athlete, and that the two should be working together. And, he made being moved in service cool. I wanted to know more about Christ, service, and purpose.
He would travel to races and come home with t shirts from wherever he went. I began to search those places out and wonder if I would ever go there. What would it take to walk in his footsteps? What has he seen and done while he was there? What will it take for me to do the things that he has done? He was photographed, interviewed, and followed. And yes, he was popular.
He was an amazing athlete. Olympic Trials in sprinting, College All American. Program changer. He went on to become a community leader, a husband, father, and favorite son. He is a leader of spirits, a calming presence, and the glue that keeps his family and others together. He simply is love walking, talking, and in action.
What he did was show me the road out of our neighborhood. He showed me how academics were important, and he showed me that I could see the world because he had. He made me dream of bigger things, be curious about life, and to be decent while pursuing those things. He taught me to be a better brother, son, and man. His LovePrints are all over me and mine. I had to share him with you all. He is too amazing to keep to myself. I hope that you had a hero in your house. I sure am thankful for him. Love in action. Action in love.
The Mighty Black and Gold! The Black Knights of Arlington, Virginia. A mix of everything and everyone in South Arlington. Black, white, brown, yellow, and every color that exists. All under one black and gold umbrella. If you grew up in Arlington back in the day, you recognized the colors black and gold, and you knew that whoever was wearing them was connected to anyone else that wore them past or present. You might ask their last name to find out what family, just so you could send home a hug or a smile to someone or everyone in that family. You knew their siblings, you knew their neighborhood, and you knew their friends. They knew you. You were a Black Knight.
The Black Knights were about sports, but so much more. The Knights were about each other, and everyone else. They were about the neighborhoods that represented them, and that the Black Knights represented. They were about the families that trusted them with their kids and their well being. They were about standard. The Mighty Black Knights.
They were a fence post in the community. They were a meeting place, a boundary setter, a standard carrier, and they were home. You knew that you could see everyone on any given practice night or game day, and that you could check in and know what was going on while you were away within minutes. You knew who had parents that worked late, who had a big station wagon, who had the best family meals, and who had the best back yard for after practice get togethers. Any parent was everyone’s parent. Any child was everyone’s child. And oh what a wonderful family it was.
The last names were calling cards, business cards, and most definitely, id cards. We all knew the names that led us, coached us, taught us, and loved us. (And pardon me know if I miss a name or family, I would be here all night if I listed everyone. Plus, I am old and my memory is leaking!). You knew the names. They were on the call list (pre email, text, and cell phones). They were on the address list so that parents knew where to drop off those ride-less kids. They needed the home phone numbers because some dear sweet soul would have to call the entire roster if there were practice, game, weather, or game treat updates.
The Kayes. Hunter. Terrell. Glascock. Saunder. Holland. Reid. Blackwell. Goodwin. McKinney. Fox. Ney. Naylor. Taylor. Morris. Peyton. Hunt. Cook. Woody. Hutchinson. Blake. Etal. (Told you, I would forget some. Feel free to add to the list!) These were just some of the names that rang out and stood out in the Black Knights family. These were the folks that followed you home, popped in at school, drove through the neighborhood, and hugged you. That is who the Black Knights were. They were extended family who you grew up with and left a LovePrint on us ALL.
It was football with its coronation from white pants to gold, meaning you had grown up enough to wear the awesome gold game pants, to the spray painting of the black helmets on Friday night so that they were gorgeous and shiny for Saturdays game. It was THE THING. It was Saturday’s at Bluemont Park, TJ, and Yorktown. ALL DAY! Watching each weight class, seeing everyone, following the amazing Black Knight cheerleaders as they SHOWED OUT EVERY WEEK! (Sorry Bearcats cheerleaders, but..). From the team tents with great food and BL gear, to seeing each of Arlington’s team roll through.
It was basketball and its twice a week stops at Swanson. Sitting in the stands and watching the older legends play, catching up with the other teams, and saying high to your friends that played on other squads. (Smaller squad size moved a lot of Knights to other sponsors in basketball season).
Baseball and Softball was amazing. Weeknights and Saturdays at Barcroft, and again, ALL DAY. Every age group, every level, and chasing foul balls and returning them for sno-cones during the day. The Black Knights were an all year family, no matter the sport, season, or reason, you were covered in Black Knights family love forever. And the other teams that partnered up with the Black Knights in South and Central Arlington (Fairlington Mustangs, Red Top Cab, Bauer Studios, Arlington Trust, Real Title, Arlington Cubs, etc), all made for young people who felt like they belonged, mattered, and were connected to something amazing. And they were right.
Decades later, if you want to know what the impact of the Black Knights was, simply ask someone, anyone, who was a part of the family. You can even ask the Hawks, Cubs, Bearcats, Optimist, and anyone who grew up in Arlington. They will smile with love. That is what the Black Knights were about. Love.
The baby faced assassin. He appears to be the neighborhood dad, the guy next door, and the guy you want to know. And then he starts coaching, and you realize that he is authentic in his ways, and you begin to lean in. You begin to look closer, and it becomes clearer. He is that dude. He is that guy. You would trust him with your name and your kids because he has learned to trust them with his. His value system is noticeable in that he gives proper weight to his name and yours. He understands that they both matter, and that he must be trustworthy to gain their trust, and yours. And he does.
Coach Bentley is the product of a loving family, a tight knit community, and a sports circle of successful friends and associates who all have enough trust in him that they are not only connected, but they stay connected because something good is going on around him. Something good is coming because of him. Something good is coming from him. And he makes you care. You want to be around when those good things happen. You must. And, they never leave his circle. They are loyal. He is loyal.
Arlington County is a unique place. Diverse and unified, while still functioning within separate and different communities. Coach Bentley is a product of South Arlington’s Green Valley (Nauck if you must), and North Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School. And somehow, he has taken those two different worlds and created a culture at a Wakefield High School Basketball Program that includes anyone willing to trust in him, and him in them. Anyone willing to care enough about their name and his to do their best, for one another. For the school, program, community, family, and self. The program is special. The community is special. The result is special. It starts with its leaders. Coach Bentley is a leader.
Coach Bentley is humble. He will say (rightfully so) that he is blessed with great kids, great support from his wife, his family, his school, his community, and his amazing, experienced staff. All true. But there are coaches who also get those things and do not have the impact that Tony does. Tony is the energy source that moves the program. And its through him that the program gets light. It starts with him.
I call him the baby faced assassin. He smiles as he prowls the basketball sidelines. He smiles because he knows that he has honored this thing the right way. And in that, something good is coming. Something good is why he does it. And in that, he knows that he can smile. All of those in his circle have already won. Family. Community. School. Program. Friends. They have all won.
Today I’m grateful for this man.. most people call him “Coach”, but Will Hawes is so much more then that. He has been so much to so many people. To me he’s been a friend and a mentor. We’ve had some incredible talks about his life experiences, his walk with God and I’ve picked his brain when I needed advice about something. We met when we both worked at LCA. He was a teacher, coach and mentor. Like me, he was also a host parent to many kids over the years. His heart was to pour into their lives and show them God’s love. One particular young man from Germany completely did a 180 largely because of the love, commitment and time Will spent pouring into his life. Will often wasn’t given the opportunity to run with the ideas he had and I don’t feel he was really fully given the chance to do what his heart wanted to do, which was take kids under his wing and love and mentor them. But he’s gone on to continue and further his God given gift of teaching, mentoring, preaching and unconditional love to touch the lives of those he comes in contact with. I’m proud and honored to have worked with him for the same cause. And although I don’t see he and his wife Kathryn much anymore, I’ll always consider them dear friends and I have no doubt that wherever he is or whatever he’s doing, Will is pouring into the lives of kids and doing what he knows how to do. Love God and love people. I’m thankful for you my friend. Thank you for being down in the trenches with me and doing it with such joy and passion. -Linda Gross
This letter was shared with me, so I am sharing it with you. Here is why:
When you measure a man, start where you will, and end up where you will, but get to the heart. In the case of Will Hawes, no matter where you start or finish, inside or out, into the heart and outward, he is LARGE. Almost superhuman. And the energy that hits you from him, even from a distance, is all consuming. He is part Giant, part elf, and all purpose. He possesses a spirit that is only out-shined by his his over sized shadow, which is there as a signal of attention before he gets there, and a reminder of his path crossing yours afterwards. And no matter what the path led, it would be forever changed and bettered by your crossing his.
An athlete of talent, drive, and IQ to match his imposing height and mass. A wrecking ball of manhood, and the ability to set a foundation with it for all of those in his orbit to base their direction and purpose with. To call him a gentle giant might be a disservice to his ability to wreak havoc on nonsense and malaise. He is all love, and often, love is loud. It is often forceful. It is often driven and direct. And in that, is brilliance. The kind of brilliance that changes paths and direction, that changes ways and meanings, that changes lives and living.
As a leader of young people, he goes first. He has gone first. And that is leadership. That is command. That is needed. He makes it easy for those in his charge to trust. He makes it easy for them to believe. He makes it easy for them to be authentic. Most importantly, he makes it easier for them to love and be loved. He cheers truth and character. He understands flaws and mistakes, but redirects and leads anew, and that is from his heart.
He loves. He cares. He matters. And, he is authentic. As a coach, he is in it for the right reasons. He loves. He cares. He matters. He is authentic.
My brother. My Brother’s Keeper. My man. My dude. My partner in love crimes. His LovePrints are covering the world in love. And he is covered in them.
A friend recently gave me a book that gave me a new perspective on how women have more to offer than is sometimes realized. Relevant to our work here at LovePrints I read about this initiative from the U.S. Department of State and espnW called GSMP: Empower Women through Sports and the Global Sports Mentoring Program.
This book I am reading referred to the statistics from global consultancy EY and espnW which surveyed 400 women business executives who held a position in the C-suite (CEO,CFO etc), and found that 94% had participated in sports and the majority of them felt that sports can accelerate women's leadership and career potential. Read more in Fast Forward by Melanne Verveer and Kim K Azzarelli.
According to the research referenced on the Global Sports Mentoring website, women and girls’ participation in sports is an important social and economic empowerment tool. Key benefits from playing sports noted are as follows:
Women and girls acquire new professional networks, develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities to become more engaged in school and community life;
Sports serve as a vehicle to improve women’s and girls’ leadership roles and participation in decision-making;
Sports convene people across borders, cultures and belief systems, and can promote greater tolerance and understanding among individuals and communities;
Girls’ participation in sports can challenge gender stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes; and
Studies show a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment.
Thank you espnW and the US State Department for this initiative. This mentoring initiative definitely can leave a LovePrint on the world.