Ok, here we go: let’s go deep – and not for a pass! Let’s dig deeply into the world’s ways for a bit and look at something that has had an everlasting impact on the lives of many, including yours truly.
Today is a pretty special day. My high school graduation night was exactly five years ago today – it was the first of a series of days and nights that changed my life forever. My grad class had a hair over 250 people in it, including a set of fraternal twins who were both keen athletes and had been highly visible people in our school’s athletic scene since the first day of grade 8. Quinn and Jan-Marie (aka Jamie) Keast were two tremendously popular young people in our school – positive, fun-loving and morally strong-rooted – they were easy to get along with. On that particularly nice, warm June 10th night, a tragedy beyond imagination occurred – Quinn Keast was struck down and killed by a bus passing by him as he was en route to our aftergrad party. His parents, twin sister, relatives, friends, school and community were left speechless: it was simply too shocking for words.
Quinn, despite his young age, was a highly accomplished young person. He was a very talented basketball player, albeit as someone who experienced success thanks to his incredible work ethic, leadership and team spirit – not necessaily as someone with loads of “God-given natural ability.” Don’t get me wrong, the guy was no average Joe on the basketball court, but his blue-collar, all-around game accurately reflected who he was as a person. At 6’0″, and probably in the ballpark of a muscular 185 – 200 lbs in his grade 12 year, he was never the tallest or fastest player on the court: he was simply the hardest-working. Quinn took over 100 000 practice shots through the course of the summer leading up to his senior season at Hansdworth Secondary School. His dedication and commitment to his team goal of leading the school to a BC AAA Provincial Championship all paid off in the end. In the spring of 2006, he co-captained a very talented, number 1-ranked Handsworth hoops squad to a convincing 82-65 finals victory over Kitsilano Secondary and capped off a noteworthy career. His championship game stat line of 17 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals was further proof of his multi-facted approach to the game and earned him finals MVP honours. The game would be his swan song – it was the last competitive game of basketball he ever played.
Quinn’s passing left a mark on everyone who’d ever experienced the pleasure of knowing him. I will be the first to admit that when I originally met Quinn in grade 7, a year before we graduated from elementary school and moved on to Handsworth, I did not innately get along with him. I take most of the blame for this. Our frictional friendship was likely a result of my poor adjustment to a new city and social environment as I had just moved to BC from Ontario when I met him. In fact, it probably wasn’t until grade 11 (possibly even early grade 12) before I fully realized his strong character, and finally found him a very likeable person (as many people had discovered long before me!). His personal motto – “No Regrets” – explained in simple words but in complex meaning how Quinn lived his life. He left nothing worth doing undone, and did everything with a powerful sense of conviction. Quinn was an exceptionally special person and really did possess the heart of a true champion. Here are the things he taught me through his exemplary actions while he was on this Earth…
Hard Work Works! – No one becomes as good as they can be at something without putting in the time to make oneself the best that they can be. QK wasn’t King James: he was Quinn Keast! Although his career as a basketball player was cut short, I’m fairly certain that he was the best athlete he could have been for the point in his life at which he was at. He was definitely as good a person as he could’ve been!
Putting the Team First Will Lead You to Your Greatest Personal Triumphs – Quinn was a quiet person, but he had a loud spirit. When he acted, people noticed. When he led, others followed. The personal sacrifices that he endured to get himself ready to make his team the best that it could be ultimately took him and the teammates who followed his example to the pinnacle of BC High School Basketball.
Believe in Who You Are and What You Do – I did not get along well with Quinn at first. He never adjusted who he was to suit me, and I’m very thankful he didn’t. Quinn was a better person than I was when I met him and was comfortable in his own skin. It was when I believed in who I was and respected myself that I eventually noticed the brilliant young leader and peer that he’d been all along.
“No Regrets” – Learn From Everything You Do – Perhaps my personal interpretation of his famous words. “To err is to be human” and mistakes and struggles are invariably the strongest forces that shape us into who we are as people. I do not fret over how Quinn and I had our differences at one point. Instead, I’m eager to meet the people in our world who positively impact the things and people they care about. As a football coach, I strive to be an agent of change myself and look forward to meeting and guiding the young Quinn Keasts of tomorrow.
Obviously, I learned many important things from Quinn, and still consider him one of the single greatest inspirations in my life. I still wear his now-iconic blue “No Regrets” bracelet on my right wrist. Unforunately, the lessons I learned from him were only realized after his death. Fortunately, because of how I learned them, I will simply never forget them. Thanks Quinn – I owe you one!