The death of the beloved teacher and coach at Victor took us by surprise, but his legacy of hard work and growth will continue for generations to come

Emotions are a lot of things, working for us and against us.

We do our best to keep them in check but every once in a while, we’re caught off-guard and we’re not sure what to do. Tears from sorrow. Smiles from memories. Laughter in love. Embraces in all of it.

That’s where we found ourselves on Friday when we learned about the death of Scott Zahn. To say Mr. Zahn was a beloved teacher and coach for Victor schools is an understatement. He was the kind of teacher and coach who made student-athletes look forward to practice, enjoy games and all the while, made them forget how hard they were working to become better.

Dare we say, he made it fun to work hard?

“You always wanted to play so well for him,” said Victor junior Emily Power, a tennis, basketball and softball player for the Blue Devils who played basketball under Mr. Zahn, who retired from teaching in 2015. “Whenever I came into the gym and saw him there, he just made you want to work hard.”

The outpouring of remembrances on social media over the weekend has been steady. Words like “impact,” “loving,” “inspirational,” “legendary” and “mentor” appear regularly and it’s clear that Mr. Zahn was more than just a coach.

During his three decades with Victor, he coached junior varsity football, baseball and basketball for boys and girls at the modified and JV levels. That presented him with plenty of opportunities and make no mistake, he left nothing to chance when it was time to make an impression.

Yes, he could teach schemes and strategy, but Mr. Zahn had the ability to see even more than what was on the field of play. And he didn’t do it because that’s what coaches or teachers are supposed to do. He did it because that’s what he, as a human being, did. It wasn’t a part of who he was. It IS who he was.

“I remember when I was on the JV girls basketball team in eighth grade and all the girls were older than me,” said Power. “I was really having a hard time fitting in. He really took me under his wing. He told me I needed to be more outgoing and told me how much the girls respected me.”

It’s easy to forget that being part of a team means more than playing the game. It means finding the chemistry of personnel, making sure young athletes are comfortable and doing what can be done to make sure conflicts are ironed smooth. Because that’s what fosters growth as a person in addition to the athlete.

It’s something not every coach has a knack for, but Mr. Zahn did. He made it easier, he made it fun and he made it the experience that it should be for countless young student-athletes.

That’s why Power wrestled with emotions on Friday. She learned of Mr. Zahn’s passing around noon but had a tennis match later that afternoon. But it wasn’t just any match, it was the Section V Class A1 team championship against Fairport.

“I got the call and I started crying,” said Power. “But I also had to calm myself down.”

Before the match, girls varsity basketball coach Blake Smith wrote the initials of Mr. Zahn on Power’s wristband and she took that into the match with her. And while Power lost her singles match in three sets and the Blue Devils lost as a team, it all seemed beside the point.

“Going into the match, I knew he would want me to battle and work hard,” said Power. “My emotions were very high. I think I put up a good fight.”

There is no question the coming basketball season will be a special one for the Blue Devils. Mr. Zahn was an assistant with the varsity team and for Power, she nearly wasn’t there for much of it.

“I was on JV in ninth grade and I was thinking about quitting,” said Power, adding that she wanted to put more of a focus on softball. “It was one of our last games and we were at Rush-Henrietta. The varsity was playing and he knew I was thinking of quitting.

“He called me over to talk to me and told me that if I quit, I’ll miss basketball and that these are the best times of my life.”

How did that work out?

“I’m still playing basketball and it’s all because of him.”

Undoubtedly, Power is just one example from many of the impact Mr. Zahn had over the years. From his family of students and athletes at Victor to his family at home in Canandaigua, where he had daughters play for Canandaigua Academy. That included Ashley Zahn, who was The Daily Messenger’s girls basketball Player of the Year in 2010 before going on to play at St. Bonaventure.

Power considers herself among the very fortunate to have not only known Mr. Zahn, but to have been coached by him. And while she and others sort through the emotions of losing a mentor, she takes solace in knowing she’s not alone.

“It doesn’t even seem real,” she said. “But my friends and I, we’ve all talked and shared memories. This is going to bring us all closer.”

Teammates and friends supporting each other. Teammates and friends growing, becoming better and growing stronger.

As a coach, there is nothing Mr. Zahn would want more.

Chavez is sports editor at The Daily Messenger. Contact me at rchavez@messengerpostmedia.com or follow me @MPN_bchavez