Dick Foote speech introducing Missy Foote

 Given at the 2004 NE Lacrosse HOF Induction ceremony (1/24/04)


I’m told I’m married to a pretty good coach.  Four National Championships and 10 consecutive trips to the NCAA Final Four, still I know shamefully little about the sport she coaches.  So I thought I’d stick to what I know about my wife as a human being:


Every March, when she’s in the throes of another busy lacrosse season, coming home sometimes at 10:00 at night to one of those three dinners I know how to cook, Missy reminds me:




For in those milk cartons, Missy plans to add soil, seeds and water, as she has done every March for almost 50 years.  She’ll wrap each carton inside a plastic bag creating a little greenhouse, then set the seedlings in the sunniest corner of our den.  The seedlings become her babies, to feed and nurture til they have legs to stand on and can safely move outdoors.


Missy’s garden is a tradition that defines her.  Like a tree, her soul has ring around it for every year she’s planted one.  The practice of growing things accounts largely for her happiness in life and her success as a coach and educator.


The milk carton idea dates back to kindergarten, when all schoolchildren plant their very first seeds in half-pint cartons that come with their snack.  Which of us does not recall the first discovery of that little green sprout emerging, as if by miracle, out of nothing but dirt?  Sheer wonder to any five year old, whose senses are still wide open, untainted by life’s defeats.  But sadly, for many, kindergarten is a high water mark in their ability to perceive life’s miracles and to respond to the world with passionate wonder.  In spoonfuls, some of us forfeit out hearts over the years to the burdens of work, family or other stresses.  We lose connectedness with others.  We lost spontaneity.  And we lapse into that tailspin of inertia called “self-doubt”.


My tribute to Missy is this: that she is about as certain as a person can be of her own heart.  This is not luck; it is sheer will.  It’s a conscious choice she makes, the second her head lifts off the pillow each morning, to engage in the world - work hard, play harder, smile, laugh, stay in touch with others, and, above all, pursue wonder wherever it may be hiding.  She understands intuitively, that people don’t grow old so much as they simply stop being young.


I’ve been guilty of self-doubt.  Guilty of letting life’s sands slip through my fingers.  But guided by Missy’s passion, more and more I seize my life, transforming those sands into clay I can sculpt into who I am and who I aim to be.


It would be easy for Missy - busy as she is - to not think of saving empty milk cartons at the end of a 14-hour workday in March.  But I know that will never happen.  Sure as the sun rises she’ll replay that old miracle from kindergarten, year after year, the wonder of it stoking the fire within her.  For Missy is a bright, bright light.  And every March, a new team of lucky athletes assembles, to bask like little seedlings in that light.  Some are only 18 years old - about one-third her biological age.  They’ve just arrived at Middlebury College thinking they are here to play some lacrosse.  They have no earthly idea of the real lesson in store for them from this 51 year old guru.  No idea that from this moment on they are in Missy’s world, beneficiaries of her “Jack and the Beanstalk” promise that if you keep planting the seeds of your potential, your life really will grow much larger than most people even imagine.