Remembering The Legacy Of My Childhood Hero This Steve Irwin Day

Remembering The Legacy Of My Childhood Hero This Steve Irwin Day

November 15 marks the day internationally commemorating my inspirational childhood hero, Steve Irwin.

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The impact that Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, has had on my life and this world carries to this day. His dedication not only to the conservation and protection of wildlife and diverse ecosystems, but also to the education of people like myself, marks his contribution to the world's ecological knowledge. Steve once said, "I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message."

His legacy is clear when his own children, Bindi Sue and Robert Clarence Irwin, and his partner and wife, Terri Irwin, carry forward his memories every day. Through their continued work with wildlife conservation and education, the Irwin family has maintained Steve's love for the promotion of environmentalism through building passion.

I was sitting next to my parents while we watched the news anchor report the death of my most dear hero in the September of 2006. He had passed away after being pierced in the heart by a stingray that he was filming.

I had just begun the fifth grade and had tunnel-vision regarding my future. Because of my own love for animals and ecology, fueled and ignited by Steve, I was determined to become a veterinarian. The Crocodile Hunter was, at that point, a religious experience for me, at least in the consistency with which I watched each episode. My parents saw changes in the contents of my bookshelves as most of my collection became about animals. I had developed a life's passion at the age of 10 because of Steve Irwin and what he brought out of me.

It physically hurt to know that he had passed away. My parents remembered that I was disturbed for quite a few days afterwards, even after I had cried that day. The key piece, the inspiration behind my dream, was gone. There were memorials internationally for him, especially in the Australia Zoo which the Irwin family owns. Even though I still was determined to work in a way that helped animals, I didn't know how to move on. What I finally came around to understanding, with the help of my parents, my teacher, and Animal Planet, was that Steve Irwin lived and died doing his life's work -- educating the world about the world's creatures. He had even foreshadowed his own determination -- "I have no fear of losing my life - if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it."

It was this realization that inspired me to write a poem dedicated to Steve Irwin that I titled The Zoo. I worked hard on my beat and did research on different animals before I decided on the perfect words that expressed what I was feeling.

Jui Sarwate

This Steve Irwin Day I remember one of my most prominent educators who served as a role model for me long after his own life. He taught me to learn passionately and always live loving what I do. After he passed on, he taught me to process grief and mourn, and then channel my own passions towards creating something that I still treasure to this day.

Thank you, Steve.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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I'm Grateful My Dad Was My Coach, But I Wouldn't Want To Do It Again

It's not as great as it may sound.

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Soccer was always a huge part of my life. I started playing when I was 8-years old and I played on both the recreational and travel levels. Unfortunately, my sophomore year presented a scheduling conflict between soccer and theatre. So, at the end of my sophomore year, I made the decision to hang up my cleats and continue on with theatre.

In the almost 10 years on the field, however, I had quite the assortment of coaches. A coach who seemed like he couldn't be less thrilled to be in charge of a hoard of eight-year-olds, one who made us practice outside in the dead of winter and one who's pockets seemed to always be full of keys that would jingle all practice long.

But I've never had a coach quite as memorable as my dad.

Now, my dad has always been a big sports guy. He loves basketball, baseball, football and even golf, but he never really showed an interest in soccer, outside of watching me play. So when one of my old coaches was ejected from a game and it was either find a new coach in five minutes or forfeit, I was shocked to see Gary Hess volunteer. But he did, and from that moment on, my dad was my new coach. I had always wondered what it was like to have a parent as a coach. I had always imagined that it was a dream, you always had someone to practice with, you could help strategize for big games and you'd always be kind of a right-hand man on the field.

Boy was I wrong.

my dad was nothing if not a good coach. He had a good understanding of the game and he let us all try our hand at positions we were curious about but being his daughter presented some tricky situations. On more than one occasion, the short 15-minute ride from the soccer field back to our house after practice became a time for harsh critique and arguments that we often brought home to my mom... sorry mom.

That wasn't all though, I knew as an athlete that you were supposed to leave it all on the field. If your team won, soak it in and move on. If your team had a tough loss, be upset about it for a second and move on, but when your dad is your coach, it's a little harder to do.

After games I would get to hear all of his feedback, some good and some bad and even when his critiques weren't directed at me, they were directed at my teammates and friends and sometimes his harsh words and even his praise of other people was hard to hear. Of course, it didn't help that he stepped into the coaching job for a group of 14-year-olds who weren't always the easiest to deal with, me being probably the most difficult of all just because it's hard to separate your coach from your dad and your player from your daughter.

Despite our issues, we had a good time and as I got older and my dad got more comfortable with coaching and found his style, we were a much better team. We argued less, though every now and again we'd still but heads. I started to take direction more seriously and he started to understand how to communicate effectively with a group of young kids. We didn't ever have a superstar season but at the end of the day, we had a good time.

Good and bad, I wouldn't trade the years I spent playing soccer with my dad as the coach for anything. But if it came down to it again now I think I'd have to say thanks but no thanks. With that said though, he made me a better player and a better person so, thanks, dad.

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