By Craig Gemmell
Head of School

I awoke to blue skies after a week of mostly grey clouds and rain to realize that I could see the lake through barren trees. Late fall has arrived, exams on the horizon, and the athletic awards are just a few hours away.

What, I wonder, to say about the end of the fall? The end of the term, the end of the season?

What might I presume to know worthy of sharing to a sea of kids who will be sitting in the Smith Center at 10 a.m.? This is a question that wracked my brain as I moved back-and-forth to meetings in Boston and the vicinity for the better part of the week.

Perhaps this: I was green with envy watching Bobcat Nation in this, my first fall. Green because SO MANY coaches and athletes had the glow about them that only comes from practicing and competing with friends — the very glow that I sure felt but took for granted when I was deeply involved in fall sports from the late 1970s until last fall as a competitor and then coach.

And I was green with envy because now I’m just another sedentary spectator and gain satisfaction only vicariously.

But I don’t want them to get me wrong. I was thrilled about so many moments as a fan this fall, and there were some great moments. In my first game as spectator in early September, watching freshman Anya Found score the first goal in her first game on the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team; or watching Senior Marina Jozokos score the winning goal in OT, after missing in a great bid at the buzzer a few minutes before, in one her last games on our turf. These and so many other great moments in the Nation will stay with me forever.

I would want them to understand that I’m green with envy because anyone who played or ran or rowed or sailed with intensity this fall knows the deep satisfaction of stretching for the sake of the team, the joy of growing through hard work, the sheer pleasure of the physicality. But they might not appreciate yet the transcendence of it all.

Transcendence. That’s it. That’s what I’d like them to understand.

Practicing, competing with peers, guided by a caring adult, has transcendent effects on a life. It has on many. It sure has on mine.

I was a gangly, shy kid who found voice and purpose through sports, found deep and abiding friendships through sports, found my deepest self through it all. Sports allowed me to find the athlete within, the student within, the community member within. Sports, more than any other single endeavor, put me on the path that led me to today.

I suspect the same is true for SO many who coach, and I bet they know it.

And yet I realized this in full only this very fall, when I found myself sitting in cars or meetings most afternoons while they practiced, among the spectators instead of on the field or the sidelines as coach since I’ve migrated to Wolfeboro.

Perhaps the best message I can convey is a simple one: being able to train, play, and compete has a higher purpose than merely filling time and increasing physical health. It can shape a life. Again, it can have transcendent effects. I’m sure of this.

I’ll say this to them: take a moment to be grateful to your families, your coaches, your teammates, and your school for providing you with such an opportunity. Don’t take this opportunity for granted for a moment; hold your memories close.

For sooner or later, life will take you at least one degree of separation away from this particular sort of joy. It happens. I know.

And I’ll say this: gratitude should fill you. Thank your coaches, parents, teammates, fans. They’ve made this fall all the richer for their investment. Drink deep of this and it’ll sustain you for a lifetime.