A Lower Mainland coach had an important message for students at Earl Marriott Secondary Tuesday: It’s OK to not be OK.
Langley Secondary basketball coach Sheldon Guy, who lost his sight suddenly in winter of 2021 but returned to coaching only days after the diagnosis, got candid with a crowd of gathered students, parents and staff at EMS, before an exhibition basketball game with his Thunderbirds team vs. the EMS senior girls team.
“I’ve learned to adapt. I’ve learned to persevere. I’m learning that life’s not that bad and that it becomes your decision – each and every one of you guys – it becomes your decision whether you want to be successful or whether you want to take the other road,” Guy told the gathered crowd, after entering the gym to Sia’s Unstoppable while dribbling a basketball.
Having previously lost sight in his right eye more than five years ago due to a separate issue (optic neuritis), Guy said it was a short three weeks from him noticing something was happening with his vision – while driving through the Massey Tunnel – to having no vision at all.
Doctors said the former Frank Hurt Secondary basketball player was suffering from anterior ischemic optic neuropathy – similar to a stroke of the eye, where blood flow to the optic nerve has been cut off.
“It’s a tough situation, I’m not going to lie… Not every day is OK.”
Adults and kids face constant pressure “to always be ‘on’, to always be there for others,” Guy noted, adding some days, that can be hard, no matter how much one wants to stay positive.
Sometimes, strangers can be cruel.
“In White Rock I’ve had my stick kicked out of my hand purposely. I’ve been spit on. ‘Hey can you see this?’” Guy told the crowd, making a spitting sound to emphasize the memory.
“I decided that I’m not good enough to be here anymore,” Guy said, his voice catching.
“My world got super small… (I thought) I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
Admitting he had been brought that low was hard, Guy told the Peace Arch News on Wednesday.
“But that’s why I wanted them to know. If even one person understands, and thinks ‘It’s OK to not be OK,” then his message has been heard, he said.
First featured in a (long-time local sports journalist) Howard Tsumura story shortly after he lost his sight, Guy has since also been featured in a TSN special called Pivot and a W5 feature as well as other TV specials, with his personal story showing how it is possible to pivot from something as life-changing as losing your sight.
“I”m not trying to be famous. I’d rather have my sight back,” Guy said.
He credits his son, Jaidyn, his girlfriend, Chelsea, and his team of Thunderbirds for always having his back and lending him support.
After he spoke, Guy answered some questions from the crowd before his senior girls team played the EMS senior girls team.
The event also raised funds for his charity, Improve Her Game, which helps young girls in the Lower Mainland become better citizens through the game of basketball.
The charity coincides with EMS’ goal of raising awareness for women in sports, said EMS athletic director Russ Heggie.
“It was a great talk. It got emotional – I think it helped (students) to hear about his challenges to adapt, how to pivot,” he said.
The Thunderbirds won the exhibition game by 30 points, Guy shared.
“Once I put the mic down, I’m all business.”