OPINION: My Coach Buckley

Mati Hurwitz, Sports Editor

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Christopher Buckley was the most special person to walk through the halls of Shalhevet. I am judging not by the count of gavels that the Model Congress delegations received or the individual Mock Trial awards students earned, but by my years of observing and watching his dedication, work ethic and extensive knowledge of everything he undertook.

Growing close to him as a captain of our football team, I gawked at his ability to create and alter playbooks on the fly, based on changing matchups or whether we were six- or eight-man ball. He worked hard until the last second possible to enable his team to win tough games.

This was evident for our first game against Crossroads, in which we grinded out a 27-25 win. I stayed back at school with Buckley before our 6 p.m. kickoff while he had to manually edit the final additions to our new playbook, after a malfunction with the school printer.

It was 5:20 and with only 40 minutes until kickoff, Buckley frantically scrambled to assemble the playbook, number the sets by formations, and label the quarterback’s progressions. With the game plan set, we arrived at the field with a comfortable eight minutes until the game’s commencement.

That experience stands out to me because it showed his ability to prepare for our opponents under any circumstance while I watched his passion for the team ooze out of his skin. Ultimately, Buckley led us to a miraculous comeback that ignited our championship run.

It reminded me of when girls quarterback Nicole Feder missed the annual YULA game last spring. Coach Buckley redesigned his playbooks for the speedy Nicole Miles to play the part with a series of quarterback run options. After he spent a night prepping, the girls misplaced the playbook before kickoff.

But that didn’t deter Buckley from developing the winning formula. Calling impromptu timeouts and sending signals from the sideline, he led the Lady Firehawks to a 14-0 triumph.

I know that Buckley did his job well with the girls team, because despite their losing record, the girls entered and left each match smiling and joking around with their coach. They cheer “OMT” (inside joke) and “That’s so Buckley” all game long, whether they were driving or down by 20.

Lastly, I actually went to scout Crossroads and YULA with Buckley in mid-September. With Buckley on the iPad and me on the notepad, we studied all of the teams’ tendencies, formations and concepts. “Man-to-man with one single-high!” I yelled as Buckley replied, “Doubles left, wide right, singleback.” That was the highlight of my connection with him — and another manifestation of Buckley doing anything in his power to position our team to win games.

I sat shotgun in the van to focus on the game and strategize with my coach and further develop our covalent bond. We would discuss the blocking schemes to implement against AGBU and Vistamar and also offensive packages.

We went through a lot together so his resignation announcement and its aftermath hit me hard. I was bawling upstairs in class, and was nervous that we might not win the championship without him.

However, I channeled my rage into passion in our locker room to get my teammates amped and ready for the playoffs.

I was more than gratified when our coach returned for the title game. As the clock ticked zero, we embraced around midfield. “We did it! We’re champions!” I screamed with a stream of tears on my face. I could hear him whimpering on my shoulder too.

I will always remember Buckley as my coach and teacher, but also as the caring and passionate human being that he was and will always be. He was more loyal and committed to Shalhevet than anyone I have ever seen.

Between debate and football there are many words to describe Buckley, but I will stick to one: winner. All he does is win.

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