Airborne and in the hunt

Updated: February 19, 2006, 12:50 PM ET

Editor's note: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale will share a diary with ESPN.com throughout the season for the fifth consecutive year. Coale, who has a master's degree in education and was a high school English teacher from 1989-96, opens the 2005-06 season with her first submission just three weeks into the new school year.

Sept. 6, 2005

Sherri Coale
Jeffrey Haderthauer/Icon SMIEvery year, Sherri Coale tells her Sooners the same thing: Teams don't do remarkable things without special seniors.

It's hard sometimes to tell where one thing stops and another begins. Seasons are like that. So are teams, if you're lucky, anyway. We have two weeks under our belt. Unless, of course, you count August. Or June. Or our very concentrated May. Somewhere in there, the 05-06 run began. It was an uneventful takeoff. No bells rang, no people chanted and cheered. I doubt even one of my guys could figure out a day to circle on her calendar. We just started. One foot in front of the other, very Rudolph-ish in our mission, we just went. I've found most things of significance generally begin just that way.

New years don't necessarily imply fresh starts. And fresh starts don't necessarily rely on new years. Beginnings happen all over the place. Sometimes the most significant ones even happen in the middle. "When" is often incredibly irrelevant. "What" can make all the difference in the world. That's the part you can't define; you just have to feel it. And while I don't know when we left the launch pad, I can feel that we're airborne, and I like this place because from here we get to go anywhere we choose. That's where the "what" comes in. What we do, what we think, what we say, what we feel -- every single one of us -- from the second we jump forward matters. And it will keep mattering until our craft lands.

I tell my team every year: Teams don't do remarkable things without special seniors. Seniors don't have to be captains. They don't have to be leading scorers. They don't even have to play minutes. But they must be special, or we have no shot. I had one ask me this year just what that means. I am, as I write this, still moved by her earnestness. That is special.

In the middle of an extremely difficult conditioning day, one senior reached behind her and grabbed the hand of her teammate who was struggling, slinging her in front so that she could push her to the finish line. That is special. At the close of a very long Saturday, one senior who had many other places of significance to be, stood in my living room making conversation with a recruit's father. She won't ever play with the student-athlete in question. She didn't have to be immersed in our efforts. But she was. That is special. We have a shot.

I had a dear, dear friend tell me years ago that you get the kids you are supposed to get. He said recruiting was about effort, and honesty, and instincts, and that in the end, the kid you didn't think you could live without turns out to be a million things but very rarely that. I had to coach awhile to believe him. From where I now stand I can see he's a very smart man.

People keep asking me how we got Ashley and Courtney Paris. We were supposed to get them. Period. They're freshmen -- a whole three weeks into their collegiate careers -- and I cannot imagine them not being here. People will write and talk about their size, their skill, their impact inside those four thick lines. It will be their substance that sustains us in the long haul.

We have good people. That guarantees us nothing, but it puts us in the hunt for everything -- and for now that's enough.

For more on coach Coale and the Sooners, visit Oklahoma's official athletic site.

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