Life Coach – 3 Real Definitions

Life Coach – You’ve probably heard the term used by people from all walks of life in the past few years.  One definition states that a Life Coach is “someone that looks to empower others by helping them make, meet and exceed goals in both their personal and professional lives.”

And – for 8 months of online classes (and probably a large sum of hard-earned money) YOU TOO can become a “certified” Life Coach!

Oh, please

It was fodder for laughs on the now-cancelled “Roseanne” sitcom, after Roseanne’s sister Jackie announced to the family she was a Life Coach.  There is even an International Life Coach Federation, and maybe Jackie was even a fictitious member – but we will never know unless The Conners really, truly rise soon from the TV sitcom ashes, will we?

Now, there are those life coaches, then there are LIFE COACHES…the real ones.  Three of these amazing people come to mind immediately, and their experiences and qualifications are remarkable.

The first life coach who immediately comes to mind is Mike Messere,West Genesee High School Boys Emeritus Varsity Lacrosse Coach.  Google his name and you’ll find page after page of interviews, stories, and statistics of the winningest high school coach in the United States.  For 50 years he helped develop young boys into men, whether they liked it or not, with his classic boot camp-style of discipline, holding practices for hours on end (including the famous “Snickers Bar” practice), having his players walk in line, side by side, on and off the field, riding in hot school buses to games (sometimes for hours on end) with no talking unless they won.

His lifetime statistics speak volumes:

834-84 Win-Loss record, 15 NY State Championships, 33 Sectional titles, 11 undefeated seasons.

ABOVE: West Genesee Boys Lacrosse team at the 2015 State Championships, complete with “special” haircuts – a tradition ONLY when they earned a trip to States.

Not everyone agreed with Messere’s coaching rules, style, or mission statement, especially toward the end of his 43-year lacrosse career, but just ask any former player what they think of Coach Messere – and how he inspired them through his philosophy of hard work – and you’ll find guys who are now living successful careers in various fields, be it a physician, attorney, or one of the throngs of high school and college lacrosse coaches nationwide.  They say it’s all thanks to Coach Messere.

Coach Mike Messere

The second REAL life coach is a man I had the privilege to finally meet at a recent book signing in Oswego, NY whose name is Gordon “Pete” Sears. I met him because I contributed to a book called “My Kids Play Hockey” by Christie Casciano Burns.* This book reads kind of like a “Chicken Soup for the hockey parents soul” – style, and a great guide for the newbie parents who don’t know where to turn and how to start their kids on the youth hockey route.  Sears’ friend, Bill Cahill, another contributor to Christie’s book, wrote a chapter on this legendary athlete, coach and mentor to him and many others.  This description of Pete Sears is too good not to share, so with Bill’s blessing, below is an excerpt from his chapter titled “Life, Luck & Mentors:”

Life is complicated; it’s full of highs and lows and can be difficult to navigate regardless of your age. If you’re very lucky you may meet someone that becomes a friend and mentor, someone to help you navigate life. I’m one of those lucky people, growing up in Oswego NY in the 1970’s and 80’s, I had many great teachers and coaches. When I started playing hockey as a 7 year old in 1973 (I had big plans to be the next Bobby Orr), I had heard that there was this guy who played goalie at our local college Oswego State, and that he was on the Olympic Team the previous year. A few years later after pursuing a pro career, this guy decided to make Oswego his home and started coaching in the Oswego Minor Hockey Association. Little did I know at the time that this guy, Gordon “Pete” Sears would become one of my teachers, one of my coaches, one of my best friends and a person that would profoundly influence my life on a number of levels.

Although he was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college, Pete talked about hockey players like we/they were from a different planet. He always talked about how you can give a hockey player any task in life and they will figure out a way to get it done. All these years later I feel that he was right, hockey people seem to have a certain grit or toughness that you don’t see in most civilians. It is certainly something I’ve tried to pass on to the players I have coached over the years, and currently the young ladies (which include my daughter Monica) on the 19u team that I coach today. I have Pete to thank for that mindset and I hope to instill in them the confidence that he gave to me and so many others.

(Pictured left to right-Pete Sears, book contributor Bill Cahill, author Christie Casciano Burns, and another contributor 🙂 )

My favorite passage from Bill:

Pete’s biggest point of emphasis was always preparation, mental and physical. He has a list of several hundred “mind vitamins” many of which we have committed to memory, but one of his favorites is; “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Some of these sayings can be found posted in my classroom today. To Peter, these sayings are not just catchy phrases, but a way of life. He is the least hypocritical person I have ever met, he walks the talk. How many human beings do we encounter in life that make you want to be a better human being? My friend Pete Sears is one of those people.

Bill’s perspective on Pete Sears practically mimics my own coach and mentor, the third person in my Life Coach trilogy, but she is definitely not least!

Grace Mowatt Burritt, Emeritus Oswego State Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach, has held a myriad of roles for myself and other female collegiate swimmers for decades.  She has not been just a successful college swim coach, but Grace has been a surrogate parent (the “mom” for the hundreds of student swimmers who came to Oswego from out of town), that “fun aunt” you may have never had but always wanted, a fierce golf partner (I confess to using Grace as a “ringer” during ladies’ member-guest tournaments), a source of information of the goings on in Oswego during my reporting years, and the most important quality, a friend who has listened to me via phone, text, email or in person.

(Grace on the right at her 29th birthday surprise party in 2017)

Grace has always kept herself well-informed about current events, and has her own successful athletic history, another factor to her vitality and spirit.  She is a big reason I began swimming again…it’s given me a reinvigorated mind – and quite simply, there is just nothing like it.  I suppose it’s why old hockey players want to keep on skating, or why runners keep running (I am not one of them).

To those of you who have your own special – and real – Life Coach, you are truly blessed.

*Just a Note:  Forgive the shameless plug, but “My Kids Play Hockey” is now available at Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, River’s End Bookstore in Oswego, NY (buy local!!) and also on

Author: sinkorswim204

I'm a “veteran” Broadcast producer as well as a former high school and collegiate swimmer who still loves to write. I hope to inspire others to stay afloat in these often turbulent waters while enjoying some new challenges in my middle age.

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