By Rep. Kristi Noem
Some of the most influential people in my kids’ lives have been their coaches, and I think that’s true for a lot of folks. All three of our kids have been blessed to be on teams led by incredible coaches who taught them lessons they could use on and off the court. It’s what a good coach does.
In 2014, we lost one of South Dakota’s greatest coaches, Don Meyer. Coach Meyer served as head basketball coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen for 11 seasons. In 2009, he became college basketball’s winningest coach, and by the time he retired, he clocked in more than 900 victories. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a ribbon cutting for the Don and Carmen Meyer Center of Excellence at the Avera Cancer Institute in Aberdeen. It was an incredible honor to be there and recognize a coach that each of us could learn something from – whether we play basketball or not.
For those who may be unfamiliar with his story, Coach Meyer got in a terrible car accident in 2008 with injuries so significant that his lower left leg had to be amputated below the knee. During that surgery, they found cancer.
One of my favorite things he left behind was his “2nd Ten Commandments.” His words offer incredible perspective for anyone battling a serious illness. Like so many of his lessons as a coach, however, these commandments could apply to each of our lives. I won’t go through all of them in this column, but I did want to share a couple of highlights.
He started out his list with these two commandments: “Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities. Thou shall not be fearful, for those things we fear never come to pass.” We live in an ugly world and it’s hard to not jump to worry and fear. Whether you or a family member is battling cancer, facing a job loss, or trying to change Washington, we ought to keep our focus on action, not fear. Our attention should be on what we have control over and the steps that can be taken to make a positive change.
Coach Meyer goes on to write in his fourth commandment: “Thou shall face each problem as it comes; you can only handle one at a time anyway.” Advice each of us could use from time to time.
His seventh commandment: “Thou shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill. It is forever gone; concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now.” So many people today struggle with living in the now. We’re constantly on our phones or social media. It takes us out of the moment. Put it all aside – if even for a few hours a day – and live in the now.
Coach Meyer’s tenth commandment is my favorite: “Thou shall count thy blessings; never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings adds up to a big one.”
Coach Meyer was a blessing to South Dakota and the basketball community. As I stood up to recognize him at the recent ribbon cutting, I couldn’t help think about the legacy he has left for us. It is my hope that those facing serious illnesses – whether at the Don and Carmen Meyer Center of Excellence or any of South Dakota’s excellent medical facilities – can find inspiration and even comfort from his story of resilience and faith.