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Neil Duffy, who is retiring in June after 30 years as a teacher-coach at Norfolk Academy, gave the keynote speech at this year's Athletics Celebration, thanking the thousands of student-athletes he has worked with for creating fond memories for him and other teacher-coaches.

In addition to teaching Upper School Physics, Duffy is Head Coach and Program Director for Girls Basketball and an Assistant Coach for Boys Varsity Lacrosse. He coached Varsity Girls Basketball for 22 seasons, earning 267 victories. He nurtured a strong sense of teamwork in his players and introduced traditions designed to build character, such as the Someone Special game, allowing the players to honor an influential person in their lives. Lacrosse players replicate this effort in their Play to Honor game.

“I can't think of a better role model for you young men and young women than Coach Duffy," said Director of Athletics Chad Byler, who introduced Duffy.

Duffy focused his remarks on the rewards that teacher-coaches feel.

“Tonight, my thoughts turn to the tens of thousands of still photographs and videos stored in my mind," he said. “And I want you to know that even a handful or so of those scenes would mean enough to provide sufficient joy in my life."

Memories certainly come from big wins and championships, Duffy said. But they also come from great plays, individual recognitions, and watching his student-athletes perform at the collegiate level. And they come when a player invites him to an Eagle Scout ceremony or a wedding.

They even come from routine daily interactions in hallways, at workouts and practices, and when simply watching from the sideline.

“All these interactions wrap into what I would consider to be a special treat that I'm not sure how many people see or think much about," Duffy said. “But we do here as coaches. And it is an absolute joy."

Championships, trophies, and certificates are great, Duffy said. But making an impact on lives is what drives teacher-coaches.

“I would argue that everything else that we do, every day-to-day interaction that we get to enjoy with you students is, at least in my experience, and I think my colleagues would be 100 percent in agreement with this, as great and as powerful and of equal importance to us as your coaches."

Duffy then transitioned to providing advice for student-athletes. While talent is important, leadership, toughness, and being a good teammate for more important, he said.

“Character skills far surpass the technical pieces," he said.

Duffy closed by thanking student-athletes for the joy they have provided him and his family over the years. He offered some more advice: Keep working as hard as you always do; focus on defense on the fields and courts; be strong on the edge; keep offering your best efforts to whatever the team needs; keep preparing for each game as if you're playing Team USA.

“Keep treating each situation and each game as though the score is 0-0," he said. “Keep being safe and healthy. Keep being great teammates. And, in whatever form they might take, keep getting grounders."

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