It was early November—my freshman year of high school when I walked into the west gym at Arrowhead High School’s north campus. Tall, thin and talkative, Bob Pulkowski was standing there, joking around with a girls. They were all so intimidating. I stayed on the side of the gym with the other two freshmen hoping nobody would acknowledge us.
The girls and Coach Bob came up to us asking who we were. We told them our names, grade and our previous gymnastics history. They tried to seem interested but you could tell that all they wanted was to get to know the real us and our personality, not just our history. That made us feel special and excited for what was ahead. At that practice we set up the gym and got to see how Bob acted with each of the Us new freshmen wanted to be included in the fun, but we obviously were not close with them yet.
I had assumed practice would be run like we were cadets and we would just push, push and push until we couldn’t anymore. To my amazement everyone there was like a giant family and Coach Bob was the father. It was like he was the herder and we were his sheep. I had never been a part of something like that and I was so excited to join the family.
Coming into a sport with people you never knew seemed like it would be one of the hardest things to do. But with Coach Bob being the fatherly figure he is, at the second day of practice I already felt welcomed into the family.
From freshman year to senior year, Coach Bob has always been a role model. It wasn’t always about being perfect or being the best, it was about having fun with something you’re doing but to also excel at the same time. He made gymnastics fun, he made November to February the happiest months of the year, and he made me realize how close you can get to a group of people.
Although there were 30 girls on our team, he still managed to be close to each of us. If you were ever having a bad day, he would be there to cheer you up and give you a hug. If you were having the best day, he would be there to help continue the happiness and make the day even better.
He didn’t only care about us during our season, he cared about our at home lives and our school lives. As I am a senior this year, he always asked about what college I was going to and about what I wanted to do when I grow up. “You better study in college, and when I call you better be at the library” he would say whenever we talked about it. I knew that no matter where life took me, he would always still be a fatherly figure in my life. That made me feel protected, grateful and happy that he was in my life.
He may just be my coach in school terms, but in my terms he is family and someone who I will always remember and will always look up to as a role model. I plan to visit a few practices next year and for many years after. I may not be a gymnast of his anymore but I will always be a part of the family.