I was just 13, but remember it so clearly. My first basketball camp! Jim Ehler, one of the University of Dayton assistant coaches, held a basketball camp for girls.
A men’s coach running a girl’s camp! Mr. Ehler was way before his time. He evenbrought male college players to work as counselors. Talk about heaven! Learning from guys like Jack Zimmerman and John Paxson was the highlight of every summer.
Over the years, Coach Ehler remained a steady influence in my life. He made everyone he met, including me, feel like a winner. He dedicated his whole life to encouraging scores of young people to improve as basketball players and, more importantly, as people. He was born to coach. Just last year, at age 81, he retired from serving for 13 years as a high school assistant.
In recent years, our conversations included not only great basketball memories, but matters of faith in God. We attended the same church, whose mission is to “help people who struggle with faith live like Jesus Christ forever.” Coach Ehler struggled with faith, but he believed in Jesus. And because of that, I know he is rejoicing in a much better place today!
As I think back to my great camp memories, I’m reminded how small investments in others’ lives pay huge dividends. Coach Ehler and I didn’t see each other often over the last 30 years, and yet he made a significant imprint on my life. He cared. He encouraged. He gave. He had the heart of a coach and helped change hundreds of lives for the better. What a blessing to know him and call him a friend!