Back in my high school coaching days in West Virginia, one of my annual summer camp stops would be at the University of Virginia. I loved working camp there — and the reason was Debbie Ryan. She was one of the coaches who loved camp — loved working with young people. It doesn’t happen at all camps but Coach Ryan would be at camp from sun up until sun down.
There were some UVA camp traditions. One was Coach Ryan pushing a shopping cart around camp in the afternoon with cold drinks for the campers. They had a camp raffle on the last night where campers bought raffles tickets and won tons of UVA stuff — a tradition I stole and brought to Lady Tiger Basketball Camp that we still do today. My favorite UVA tradition was the staff meeting every night after camp. Coach Ryan would bring in a ton of Jello pudding pops for the staff and we’d talk about camp a little bit but then talk about basketball. This was pre-Dawn Staley and Coach Ryan was running motion and I learned a great deal of basketball in those summer evenings.
A few springs ago while our team was playing in the Final Four in Tampa, I had the privilege, along with my wife, to speak at the tip-off function for the Kay Yow Foundation and we were fortunate enough to sit behind Coach Ryan and got to introduce her to my wife…two cancer survivors and two incredible strong people!
On twitter this morning, Coach Ryan told us that yesterday was the ninth year of being cancer free! Cancer is a fierce warrior but Coach Ryan is a great competitor herself.
Thanks for fighting the good fight Coach Ryan and for being such a great inspiration for so many — including my wife. May there be a lifetime of years being cancer free in your future!
Great article from 2008 by Knoxville News’ Dan Fleser: