Coach Spotlight Series: Meet Jesse, Cancer Survivor and Soccer Coach

Throughout his athletic and coaching career, Coach Jesse has had some tough competition, but nothing as tough as battling Leukemia. This 38-year Leukemia survivor has been nominated as a candidate for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) 2017 Man of the Year Campaign. We caught up with this inspiring coach; read more on our interview below, and check out his donation page to read more about his incredible story!

How has being a cancer survivor changed your life?

As a lifetime survivor, cancer has been one of the most defining moments of my life. More importantly, it helps me keep the right perspective towards life. The moment I take life for granted, cancer reminds me of how precious life is and how blessed I am to be here. Many people don't realize what they have before something like cancer changes their perspective on how they view life and what they take for granted every day. Every day is a blessing to be able to wake up and breathe, and I thank God for the opportunity that He has given me to experience life.

As Mark Twain said, “There are two great days in a person’s life, the 1st is the day you were born and the 2nd is the day that you discover what you were born for.” I believe I am meant to share my faith and my cancer story with others. Cancer increases my awareness of life every day and reinforces my commitment to help others. My hope is that my personal cancer story can give hope to others in all walks of life. It’s a great feeling to wake up and know you have something positive to give back to the world.

Receiving the title of “LLS Man of the Year” has little meaning to me. My passion is the fight against cancer because of my personal connection and my commitment to do all that I can to give back. I’ve spent my entire life as a cancer survivor, so I’m reminded daily of how precious life is and how to live one day at a time for tomorrow is never a guarantee. Cancer helped me become a stronger, braver, kinder, wiser and compassionate person. I choose to live life to the fullest rather than let its effects impact my life in a negative way. I choose to use my cancer experiences to motivate, inspire and give back.

I also founded of the Blue Horizons Fund at Dell Children's Medical Center Foundation of Central Texas. I believe that there is “Hope on the Horizon” and I will do whatever it takes to Help Other People Endure (Hope). I’ve had many friends and family members that have been affected by cancer and blood disorders, some who survived and some who lost the battle. Everything I do that involves cancer and blood disorders is in honor and memory of all that have been affected.

We hope CoachUp has played a positive role in your life. Why did you join CoachUp? What has your experience with CoachUp been like?

CoachUp has played a very positive role in my life these past 2 years and my experiences have been great. I joined CoachUp because I enjoy helping athletes improve and get to the next level. Most importantly, I've enjoyed the relationships I have been able to develop with athletes and parents. The most rewarding part of CoachUp have been to witness the big and little wins when the athletes I coach improve and gain a better understanding of a drill, skill, or the game of soccer as a whole. The big wins I've experienced happen over the course of time through my evaluations and discussions with an athlete or parent about progression and performance. Ultimately, those big wins may seem like the most important to achieve, but I promise you that the smallest of wins are just as important in the grand scheme of things. The big wins are a byproduct of the little wins.

How do the lessons you teach in your soccer sessions translate to life off the field?

There is no better feeling than teaching an athlete the importance of discipline, hard work, effort, dedication, determination and the heart it takes to win not only in sports but in life. Only by the grace of God have I been able to accomplish what I have through playing and coaching soccer. My dream in life was to be a professional soccer player. When my dream was not achieved, I soon realized that my own dreams are not what life's all about. I realized my purpose in life was not to make it as a pro soccer player and score goals. God put me on this earth for something much bigger than that; it's my hope that I can live out the rest of my life honoring God and help as many people as possible on and off the field.

Passion and purpose are the energizing forces that fuel every great accomplishment. My passion is my commitment to do all that I can to give back and share what I've learned through my soccer and life experiences. My purpose is to motivate, inspire and challenge my athletes to broaden horizons. I teach athletes how to focus on what they can control, mastery of their own soccer skills, and a winning attitude alongside their best effort. If athletes give me a constant willingness to learn and improve and a determination to bounce back from mistakes, they'll be successful. More importantly,  I can teach the goal of growing, learning, and understanding life's most important lessons through the game of soccer. I strive to help the athletes succeed in life off the field because those lessons will stick with them forever. 

 Any advice for other coaches out there?

Be a positive role model in the lives of athletes that you coach. Avoid placing too much emphasis on winning games and highlighting the ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture as this is unsustainable, ultimately leading to burnout and resentment. When an athlete looks at the sideline during a game, they're looking at their coaches as role models. When these role models show negative body language, it sends a message and creates a lasting impact on the athletes. Enjoy and do not take for granted the time you have with athletes to train for life lessons on and off the field.

How about any advice for those who are undergoing a major uphill battle?

My thoughts and prayers are with you. You are not alone. There are others that are going through similar battles. Find a support group or church community. Take it one day at a time. Live in the present, forget about the past and don't worry about future. Find comfort in God -- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. "Never lose hope. Never give up. Never quit."

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