Saluting a colleague in a time of need

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column was written by Parkersburg South head girls basketball coach Scott Stephens about his long-time friend and assistant coach, Larry Edwards.

Coach Larry Edwards is my mentor, my friend, and one of my former high school basketball coaches.

Coach has coached high school sports for 48 years now.

Over the years, he has worked with football, baseball, and both boys’ and girls’ basketball. I have often teased Coach that I would have been a better player if I had only had a better high school coach. He knows that is in jest because he was a wonderful coach and is a wonderful man.

I have worked with Larry for the past 14 years at Parkersburg South, four years as an assistant with him to Coach Wiseman and 10 years now with him as my assistant. Larry has taught me much about coaching. He has taught me how to appreciate our opponents, rival coaches, and even the officials. He has unlimited resources which he has collected through the last 48 years and is always sharing from that vast pool of experience.

Coach will often say, “Here is something I want you to consider; you don’t have to use it but take it home and see if you think it might help our team.”

If you came back and told him you didn’t think it was a good fit, he never got his feelings hurt or was offended. He’d just say, “Well, that’s my job to throw different ideas at you and see if any of them stick.”

I have experienced the softer, gentler side of coach these past 14 years since he gave up coaching boys and moved to the girls’ side of the game. Coach has been like a grandfather to the girls we have coached together. He looks out for their health, and is the first one there with a positive word after I have gotten on them for something. The former guys that coach Edwards coached probably didn’t get to see this side of him, instead they saw only the fiery coach that wanted to win and get the most from his players. I can’t imagine not having Coach Edwards on the bench.

A little over a week ago, I found out he has ALS.

Terry Crislip summed up Coach very effectively when he called him “an amazing man that has touched a lot of lives.” When Coach has passed, he will leave a big footprint on many lives, and all in my family are blessed to be included.

So what is ALS? Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) destroys a person’s motor neurons. Motor neurons are responsible for relaying messages from the brain to the muscles. When muscles no longer receive those messages, a person’s abilities to perform even the simplest of tasks such as putting on a shirt, combing your hair, standing, smiling, speaking, and eventually breathing are lost. There is no known cause or cure at this point. Death is the only guarantee. One of the saddest things to me is while the disease is destroying your body, your mind continues to function just as it always has so you are fully aware of all that is being taken from you. It seems to me that would require great courage to continue.

The average life expectancy for ALS is less than 5 years.

Coach will continue to live his life as productively as he can. He has told me he still wants to be on the bench next season but will maybe miss some away games. He will savor the life he has left while the rest of us rush around oblivious to the sights, sounds, and smells of life around us. Many have faced what Coach has in front of him, and I know he will match any of them for courage and determination to live what time is left to the fullest of his and his wife Carolyn’s ability.

Coach is lucky to have Carolyn, his bride of 50 years, by his side throughout this part of his journey. She is a nurse and will give him wonderful care. They have been through much together and each has an amazing love that will carry them through this as well.

In this life, there are givers and there are takers. Coach has always been a giver. I am asking all the former players to step up now and give something back. Send Coach a letter to let him know what he has meant to you. Tell him how he has impacted your life. Offer your telephone number to Carolyn as someone she can reach out to for help as this disease progresses. All of the above, along with a prayer for every day to be as good as it can be, is about all we can offer. Please send your card or letter to Larry Edwards C/O Parkersburg South Athletics, 1511 Blizzard Drive, Parkersburg WV 26101. I sincerely hope you will make a little time for an amazing man and let him know he is not just another ALS statistic.