Bus driver dubbed ‘lucky charm’ by Sandburg Illinois volleyball team
Positive Connections bus driver Andre Smith smiles with a tournament plaque he received from the Sandburg boys volleyball team after a tournament win. The Eagles made Smith an honorary coach.
The Carl Sandburg High School varsity boys volleyball team recently recognized Positive Connections bus driver, Andre Smith, as an honorary coach and celebrated his unconditional support of the team by presenting him with a plaque they earned in a recent tournament. The team, coming off of a state championship season last year, were off to a rough start this season. Coach Sean Airola thought that perhaps Andre, their bus driver last season, was the missing link and requested his services once again this year. Andre is an avid supporter of the team and sits in the stands, cheering on the team from the first serve to the last. The parents and athletes consider him a family member.
You would never know that Andre had nothing invested in the team other than their safe transport to and from Sandburg. “I began going to all of their games and was made to feel very welcomed by the team, coaches and parents. During the games I became known as the ‘original hype-man’ as I cheered and encouraged the team on and off the bus,” said Andre.
Things started turning around for the team once Andre became their driver again, and they won several matches until injuries side-lined two of their starting players. Coach Airola replaced them with several back-up players, but the team struggled with their new line-up and suffered additional losses along the way. However, before a recent match, Coach Airola pulled out a warm-up jersey from his office and offered it to Andre to wear. Coach Airola also asked Andre to sit on the bench with the team. “When Coach invited me to the bench I was thrilled,” stated Andre, who took his role as an honorary coach and ran with it. When the team was down, Coach Andre motivated them to push forward and win their tournament games. He stood in the middle of the team huddles along with Coach Airola to help inspire the kids who, in turn, pulled off wins in all three remaining matches.
The team gave Coach Andre the plaque that they won at the tournament as a thank you gesture for his leadership. “When the boys won and the celebrating began and I was awarded their tournament plaque I was speechless,” commented Andre.
“The team truly appreciates all of his support throughout the season, as a safe and reliable driver, a devoted fan and honorary coach!” stated Patty Schuman from the Carl Sandburg High School Athletic Department. Andre’s manager, Barri Blasing, at the Positive Connections bus terminal in Markham, proudly added, “Andre has always been a driver that we can count on to step up to the plate when necessary and his happy-go-lucky attitude brings a smile to all who know him. We are extremely proud of Andre and his representation of Positive Connections.”
The lucky charm and honorary coach, Andre Smith, concluded, “I am so grateful and overwhelmed by the love from the team, coaches and parents.”