CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Vince Ross started working with kids as a YMCA basketball coach 20 years ago. He hasn't stopped.
Now an assistant basketball coach at Monacan High School in Chesterfield, Ross called working with young people a blessing. His players feel just as blessed to work with him.
"We can reach out to him about anything. He's always willing to listen and give us advice and help," Monacan student Zio Shiyanbade said.
Ross has been with the Monacan Chiefs for the past eight years. During that time, he's learned and taught about patience and working through adversity.
"Trying to get the guys to realize everything has a bounce back. It's just like life," Ross said. "There are valleys and there are hills. We're going to get to the top of the hill, but we're going to have to go through some valleys sometimes."
Ross knows all about the valleys. Up until recently, he was working with the Special Ed program at Monacan. COVID-19 and his own medical issues have forced him from the classroom.
Ross is battling renal kidney disease from a bad combination of prior medications.
He is working to get on VCU's list for a kidney transplant. Until then, he takes dialysis three times a week.
"There are days when I'm totally exhausted when I come in here, especially on those treatment days. But I push myself," he said.
"Never complains. Truly an optimistic person. Doesn't burden others with his problems," coach Rick Stockel said. "Getting to know how serious his problems are, I wish he would. But he's that kind of guy."
Ross has also lost a good part of his vision. He's down to 60 percent in his left eye and 40 percent in his right eye.
After being dealt such a hand, you'd forgive him if he took time away from everything to focus on his own health. Ross has done the opposite.
"It's made me do more, actually," Ross said. "I got more active than I was before."
He took part of his time away from the game to write a children's book about a young boy going to school for the first time. As soon as he was able, Ross got himself back to school to be there for his players regardless of whatever kind of day he has had.
"He's more concerned about them and their problems," Stockel said. "He just kind of guts it out. He just goes with the flow. He's the same person today as he was eight years ago, other than his health has declined significantly."
"It shows that he loves and cares for us. We all really appreciate that," Shiyanbade said.
Ross relies on his faith for much of his strength and perseverance. His favorite biblical figure is the apostle Paul who was ridiculed and outcasted but stayed focused on his mission of spreading the word of Christ. Ross uses Paul's example to carry out his own works of giving back to his community.
"He's certainly an inspiration to me and to the other coaches and definitely to the boys," Stockel said.
"Through hard times, don't give up. Keep pushing through whatever obstacles come into your life," Shiyanbade said about the lessons he's learned.
"Me working with these young people I feel is my mission," Ross said. "Me going through illness and everything I go through, I still have a mission to commit to these young people and I just want to fulfill whatever my mission is to these young people."
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