Kevin Cooney

Kevin Cooney has spent 20 seasons as head coach at Florida Atlantic University. He has compiled more than 700 victories with the Owls and more than 850 wins in his 24-year career as a head coach. Cooney has spent the past five seasons offering his thoughts on baseball - and other things - for Cooney's Owls finished their first season in the Sun Belt Conference at 36-22 in 2007.




March 31, 2008

You Think You've Got Problems?

It seems to be human nature for people to get so wrapped up in our daily existence that we assume our struggles and problems are the worst things happening in the world.


I believe that is particularly true for those of us who compete in athletics for a living, and in the minds of the young men on our teams. Every loss, failure, or major inconvenience gets magnified when viewed through the prism of a college season.


Our trip to Monroe, Louisiana, has been a perfect example.


Sitting here at the Monroe Airport awaiting the Monday morning sunrise, our players are dealing with the hangover of a rough weekend. A conference series that held such promise when we left Boca Thursday has turned into a competitive and travel nightmare.


ULM and FAU squared off on Friday night with first place at stake. When the dust settled in the rain of Sunday afternoon, the Warhawks had completed a big series sweep and we were just looking to get out of Dodge.


There was no solace in the first two games having been solid one-run affairs; the 13-4 thumping on Sunday took care of that. Guys showered silently, grabbed some food from the generous fans in The Left Field Lounge and headed for the bus.


We arrived at the airport to learn our flight had been cancelled because of weather problems in Houston. We flagged down our bus driver, re-boarded and headed back to the hotel, prepared to spend another night in Monroe.


A 3:30 a.m. wake-up call got everyone down to the bus in order to make our 5:30 a.m. flight to Houston. The only problem was that we were not actually booked on that flight as told the night before. Half of us were on the 7:00 p.m. flight.


After some early morning haggling, all but five of us got on the morning flight with the rest to follow at 9 a.m. Of course that flight is now delayed until 10:30 a.m. One more delay and we will probably miss our connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale.


As one of the lucky five left behind, I am looking for some perspective to our lost weekend, and I know just where to find it.


As I switched off the light in my room Saturday night and prepared for a fitful, frustrating night sleep, I heard the sound of laughter and running in the hall outside my door.


Great...we just lost 3-2 and someone is about to set me off on a tirade. I opened the door to an empty hall, but grabbed a room list to see whose rooms were near mine. I was sure our freshmen were about to get a lesson on road-trip conduct, when Mike McKenna and Mickey Storey burst from the stairwell and sprinted my way.


Great...two seniors were the culprits.


Mike told me that someone had been beaten up on their floor and was chasing them. The look on his face validated his story, and I was relieved to learn it wasn’t one of our players. Mickey had heard a commotion down the hall and had summoned McKenna. A man brushed past them and down the stairs, followed moments later by the woman he had beaten in an argument. She was under the influence of alcohol and whatever, and chased after the two startled players.


We called the front desk and McKenna and Storey led me to the stairwell where the woman lay, screaming and crying incoherently. I knelt down and tried my best to console and restrain her until help arrived. She was a mess. Her face was swollen, she stunk of alcohol, and kept trying to get up to leave. She was in no shape to go anywhere. A hotel employee brought the pillow from her room as I tried to convince her to lie down. The pillow was splattered with blood.


The best I could understand, she was a nurse and was insistent there be no police, despite the curses she was spewing towards her assailant. She couldn’t have him go to jail 


I asked if she had any family and she cried about her 12-year-old disabled son who lived with a friend. She and the boy had been separated after the hurricane, and she missed him terribly.


I held her shoulders and stroked her hair trying to calm her until the EMT and police could take over. She was sobbing and wailing, rarely coherent enough for me to understand her. Several times she stopped sobbing, pulled me close to her face and

asked me, “Why do you care?”


The police arrived and took control of the stairwell. Walking out of her room, one of them showed me a nearly-empty bottle of Xanax that had been filled two days ago. That may have explained her condition.


Returning to my room and lying in the dark, I thought of the woman and her question, and I knew the answer. I care because I had a mother, I have a wife, and I have a beautiful 10-year-old daughter. The woman in the stairwell whose life has gone so badly was at one time all of those things. She didn’t expect her world to come to this...lying incoherent and bleeding in a dirty hotel stairwell.


As I tried to sleep I saw my daughter’s face and for the first time understood the hopes and fears that fathers of daughters face. Not only do we need to hope she finds a man who will love her, but we also pray that when rough times find them, there is no violence brought to the relationship. Abusive relationships aren’t new and are all too often a part of the world, but that Saturday night in Monroe brought it home for me. My prayer is that there will always be someone to care for my little girl.


Three losses and a long day of travel delays don’t seem so hard to take.