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Coach Leaves Lasting Impact On Many Lives

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Coach Leaves Lasting Impact On Many Lives

Campbell huddles with players and prays for them before the game.

Campbell huddles with players and prays for them before the game.

Campbell huddles with players and prays for them before the game.

Campbell huddles with players and prays for them before the game.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

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Last year, after warm ups, the junior varsity basketball team huddled in a circle, while Coach Kevin Campbell led a prayer for his players to be healthy, safe and successful. Later, during the game, Campbell would record the players on his Android to make them feel just as important as varsity players who are filmed. On September 2, 2018, West Springfield High School lost an authentic and loving soul – Kevin Omar Campbell, who was 34-years-old. He suddenly passed as one of two innocent victims of gun violence in Hartford. “I know his death cast a shadow on his life but Coach Campbell lived in the light,” said Mrs. Svec, an English teacher that worked with Campbell.

Quinn Serafino made t-shirt as a tribute for Campbell at his soccer game.

He was born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Windsor, Connecticut. He graduated from Windsor High School in 2002 and played on the basketball team there. Campbell’s aspirations of becoming a history teacher came into play when he received a Bachelors in History at American International College. In time, he graduated with his Masters in Special Education. Campbell worked in many schools and social service facilities providing support to those with disabilities. He juggled three jobs at one point. About two years ago, Campbell worked at the Springfield High School of Commerce as a history teacher and a freshman basketball coach.

Coach Joel Aponte, the West Springfield varsity basketball coach saw his friend of many years at a game, and convinced him to come to West Springfield. Aponte grew up down the street from Kevin Campbell and played on Windsor High’s basketball team with him. They remained close throughout college, seeing that Aponte wasn’t far at Springfield College. Aponte said, “He was always someone I could go to and talk to. We had been friends since high school, we lived near each other and traveled around playing ball together. No matter what, we’d always find time to get together.”

Therefore, two years ago, Campbell became the JV boys basketball coach, along with the assistant varsity basketball coach at West Springfield. He also worked as an inclusion paraprofessional for students with disabilities for part of the 2016-17 year, until he was employed at iCare in CT (a healthcare facility); nevertheless, he remained the West Side JV coach even though he resided in Hartford.

Mr. Campbell with his class at Springfield High School of Commerce

Despite his hectic schedule, he always found a way to be a supportive figure in his athletes’ lives. “I remember before a game, I didn’t know how to tie a tie, and Coach Kev pulled me aside and tied it for me,” Quinn Serafino, a senior basketball player reminisced. For Saturday practices, the team would have open gym and Ian Alves, a senior basketball player said, “he’d come and he’d play with us. He’d get super into it and get into our heads.” He’d stay after practice to let his players shoot, gave great advice, and was there whenever they needed him. Aponte said that Kevin Campbell had many friends and was always by their side when they needed it.

Kevin Omar Campbell

His influence on one athlete, Theodore Cone, a senior, last year was especially profound. Cone had decided that he wasn’t going to play basketball last year. As he walked out of school on the final day of tryouts, he received a call from an unknown number. It was Coach Campbell, and his old coach said the opportunity was there to still play. Convinced, Cone went into the gym and tried out with the clothes he had on. “I couldn’t say no to my mentor that had devoted his time between three jobs to coach me… I didn’t think I would make his team and was skeptical about whether or not I wanted to play JV as a junior.” To Theodore Cone, it was a miracle that his name was posted on the roster since he only tried out for one day. Campbell supported him all the way and said he’d go to court for him (it was against the rules to have an athlete attend one day of tryouts and make the team) if it came to that, just so he could have him on his team for another year. Mr. Doulette sorted everything out with Cone and Campbell.

Throughout the season, Coach Campbell convinced Cone, his JV captain of two years, that there was a greater purpose in their paths crossing. “I stopped caring if people looked at me a type of way because I was on JV. Instead, I was thankful Campbell and I could have another year of working together to help everyone on the team and each other,” said Cone. The senior explained that Campbell put confidence in him. By highlighting the fact that Cone was mature and intelligent, Coach Campbell made it seem like his captain was his equal.

In addition to being supportive, Campbell was always a selfless role model for his students and athletes. One morning, he came to practice distressed about how someone had broken into his car in the city but expressed how it was okay, that it was Christmas time and whoever stole his money probably needed it more than he did. “He was always forgiving, always would give the benefit of the doubt, and never held a grudge,” Serafino said.

Campbell wanted his athletes to be role models too. He followed up with teachers of his players to see how they acted in class and how they were doing. During drills, he would always say “the only person you can cheat is yourself.” Campbell preached the aspect of working as a team, along with Aponte. Basketball is a team sport and the two coaches noticed that many West Springfield players were often too focused on themselves. They tried to change that attitude and culture together. “With this year starting, we have a lot of kids that were under him coming up that have the mindset of sportsmanship that he emphasized,” Aponte said.

Campbell with his team

After labor day weekend, all of the basketball players were called down to the mini-theater to be told the tragic news of their Coach’s passing. Quinn Serafino expressed disappointment that the school did nothing to acknowledge his impact as a coach and paraprofessional. Meaning, there was no announcement or moment of silence to remember the life he lived.

Kevin Campbell left his parents, step-father, and four sisters, two nieces and a nephew. He had no wife or children but had many close friends who he would spend a lot of his time with. Ian Alves made a GoFundMe to support Campbell’s family and to fund the trip some of his relatives had to take from Jamaica to say one last goodbye. It raised $2,600. Students were lucky enough to attend his funeral, which celebrated his life in a loving and passionate fashion. There was a beautiful Bible singer, and the pastor had nothing but heartwarming stories to tell. His father and cousin spoke out about gun violence. “The last two hours were all about remembrance, about remembering Kev for the guy he was, all the great he did and all the lives he changed. The size of his funeral showed the number of people he touched,” Serafino added.

His religious and family-oriented nature and caring attitude will forever be ingrained in his athletes’ minds. Campbell always put others first and wanted them to be the best they could be. “He always seemed to move in a way that had a greater purpose,” Theodore Cone stated. His team will push to be the people he wanted them to be and will hopefully work together this season to exemplify the sportsmanship Campbell wanted to see in them.

 

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Coach Leaves Lasting Impact On Many Lives