When circumstance brought me to Indiana, as a troubled boy in 1983, I had no idea what would happen. My single mother struggled with finding something, anything for me to be involved in and time after time failed to find a connection.
Enter Mark Hess. Slowly but surely, my mother was able to get me interested in swimming, first with the YMCA and later with IHS. Swimming appealed to my sense of individual achievement as well as giving me a feeling of being part of a team.
Mark became my coach from 1985 to 1989 and knew how to push my buttons. He took time to get to know me. I would yell and scream, even walked out of practice and quit one evening, but he always took the time to listen and mentor.
It was a tough experience and I’m sure I gave him some gray hair, but he truly gave me a budding sense of self-worth from an outside presence. Even when I would finish fifth in a race out of six swimmers, he focused on the positive outcome, asked how I might push a little harder and was always grateful for the effort.
I would see him at church on Sundays and he would take a moment. Mark always had a way of bringing out the best of me, both as an athlete and person. Even today, I find myself thinking back to those lessons and conversations — the positivity, the grace in defeat and the joy of winning. I was never going to be a world-class swimmer, but Mark made you feel like you could beat anyone and do just about anything.
Today, I have a successful career, and my wife and I have a young son in kindergarten. He loves to swim and takes lessons. While we are at the beginning of my son’s swimming career, I think back to the days Mark was my coach. My hope is that I can pass on some of the knowledge, the caring and the understanding Mark showed me.
We all go through life hoping our children will be impacted with a positive role model or mentor outside of the family.
Mark Hess had a huge impact on my life, helped model the man and father I have become and I will be forever grateful. I am a part of your living legacy, coach, and I thank you.
IHS Class of 1989