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Thank you to two of Charlotte’s irreplaceable giants

By Chris Kouri
Special to the Observer

Charlotte Catholic High School will never be the same. Two giants of Charlotte, its Catholic community, its scholastic and athletic community have retired. After 40-plus years of leading, teaching and inspiring, head football coach Jim Oddo and principal Jerry Healy of CCHS have retired.

Those of us who grew up going to the Catholic schools in Charlotte know these two men. From our earliest days in any of these schools, from Saint Patrick’s to Consolation to CCHS, we knew Coach Oddo and Coach Healy.

As a boy, I was mesmerized by Coach Healy’s speeches. There were several of these a year, speeches that got your legs pumping and your heart full with optimism, energy, a deep sense of mission and human worth and ability. Coach Healy was a master of these speeches. I can’t believe what a privilege those speeches were to hear. I can’t believe how fortunate I was to benefit from the sheer glut of them, year after year. He was always a light. I now realize how rare that is.

Jerry Healy inspired. He was the perfect school community leader in that way. Yes, we need strong minds and strong bodies. But heart!? He fed that, nurtured that in all of those he led. He wanted us to be good people. People with character.

As a young Catholic boy who loved football, the legend of Jim Oddo was towering. It was a little scary to think in 8th grade that if I wanted to play football at Catholic High, I would have to play for Oddo. Gulp.

Zen masters teach staying in the moment. Focusing on what you are doing. Coach did that. I will not recount his voluminous coaching successes and accolades. Instead, I will emphasize this: Jim Oddo taught teen boys how to be men. We were taught to play by the rules. To obey the referees. To shake the opponent’s hand after the game and pick them up after you wiped them out. To never talk junk. To never seek credit or statistics. The most valuable fighting tool, he taught us, was inside. Our will. Our heart and our drive to never stop.

Coach Oddo raised morale with his high expectations of each of us, to play above our size, speed and any physical or athletic limitations. From this, momentum whipped up like a torrent from his teams. And as individuals we left our playing days for Coach with teamwork, sportsmanship and inner drive as enduring gifts.

Thousands of us are so lucky to have learned from these two men. In a world of nauseating self-promotion, these men found humility to be the greatest of virtues. Adversity the greatest training ground. Inner tools that no one can touch our greatest assets.

Two giants. Two irreplaceable giants.

Chris Kouri is a Charlotte lawyer.
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