ECHOES FROM THE VAN

Maybe the saddest conversation occurred late one night after a match. Driving silently the boys talked about the spring break they’d just returned from.
Another kid stated, “My mom drinks gin all day. She’s a drunk.”
“Hmmm. I came home four nights last week and passed by my Dad, drunk in a chair. He never recognized me.”
Silence. Then from the back Rocky Peed spoke: “You guys don’t know any- thing. Last year I saved $50, all I had, and bought myself a new racket for the high school championships. I got dressed to leave and couldn’t find my racket. My father had sold it for $5 to buy a pint of whiskey.”
That one touched me.
Rocky had been a “need” case. I first heard about him when some one said he was going to attend Atlantic Christian.
I knew he was a pretty good player but he had no phone. He lived with his grandmother. She was his only family, having kicked Rocky’s father out.
Not only could I not call him, when I went to the tournaments Rocky was in, he ducked me.
Finally I cornered him in front of a small group of junior players. I introduced myself and commented that I’d heard he was interested in our school.
Rocky was 6’3”, longhaired, and really nice looking young man. He blushed and asked “Could I speak to you over there Coach?”
In private, he told me he knew who I was. Sam Modlin had told him all about our school. It sounds great.
“But Coach, I can’t go to college. I don’t have any money. All the kids I play with talk about their college plans all the time. I just said I was going to Atlantic Christian to save face. I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Rocky, you can come to AC on the B.E.O.G. (Federal aid for needy kids.) If you want to come, I’ll get you in. Don’t worry about the money. Rocky, a 1975 graduate, is now a grandfather, and highly successful insurance agent.
He also won a District Singles title. I bought his racket for him.

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