Friday, May 15, 2015

Moser Column: Coach’s death a loss to entire community

Dan focuses on the impact of Coach Jeff Sommer's death on many in our community. He also reports on the Bike to School Day last week, and the upcoming June 5th SWFL Critical Mass Ride.

From my perspective, our society puts way too much attention on organized sports and the people who participate as athletes and coaches, sometimes to the point of obsession. All too frequently, those who are revered for their athletic prowess or win-loss record end up disappointing their fans by the things they do in their real lives. When that kind of reality happens, it’s especially tough on kids.
On the flip side, there are some cases where there’s good reason to truly admire certain individuals because their positive influence is much bigger than any game or competition. Our community has just lost one of those people.

Jeff Sommer, longtime coach at Estero High School, died suddenly while on the sidelines as his team competed in the State Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville. Losing a coach who had a history of motivating track athletes and cross country runners to be winners in their respective events is tragic in itself. But Jeff’s influence beyond the tracks and race courses will be most missed. He prepared many young people for success in life.

Edsion Park ES Bike Corral on Bike to School Day Edsion Park ES Bike Corral on Bike to School Day I know Jeff from our road running world here in SW Florida, one that’s been very active since the late 1970s. His influence was apparent from the early days of his appearance on the scene by virtue of the fact that former athletes he coached formed the 3D Running Club in 1985 as a way to stay connected with running during the off-season. In all the years since they came together I don’t recall a local race that didn’t include runners of all ages wearing 3D colors. To me, this is a testament to Jeff’s positive and far-reaching influence that not many coaches in any sport can claim.

Since Jeff’s passing, there have been many stories told by those he influenced, with almost all of them focusing on the positive things Jeff did that were above and beyond the sport he coached. Based on those accounts and from what I know about Jeff; it’s not only those of us in the running community who will feel the void now that he’s gone.

Bike Month update
The first event of Bike Month, SW Florida Critical Mass Ride on Friday, May 1, brought together 326 people on bikes who rode around Art Walk and the McGregor Boulevard area. The sight of that many bikes all lit up was quite impressive as well as entertaining. By all accounts, this was the most attended ride in the two years it’s been taking place and went off with little trouble or inconvenience to other road users. Rob Siebert, the ride’s organizer, is to be commended for the excellent job he does. If you haven’t been to one yet, you can join in on June 5 for a clown/circus themed ride in memory of John “Sugar” Donaldson, a creative and fun-loving guy who was involved with SWF Critical Mass and who recently passed away. Just show-up at the big empty lot next to Publix on McGregor near downtown Fort Myers at 7:30 p.m.

Last week a number of Lee County schools took part in Bike to School Day. I was at Edison Park Elementary School, where at least 40 student participated — up significantly from the usual halfdozen or so. Many of the kids had their parents in tow as they used their bikes to get to and from school. The trick now is to make it a habit rather than a one-time thing. And from what I observed and from talking to students, parents and personnel at Edison Park, it brought lots of smiles to many faces, so one would hope it does become a habit or at least regular option to kids being chauffeured. One idea that might be considered is to create a “bike train” and “walking school bus,” in which one or more parents ride or walk along with their kids and pick up other kids along the way to school, replicating a school bus route. The school district has a Safe Routes to School expert on staff, Lisa Indovino (who recently won Florida Bicycle Association’s Educator of the Year award), who can assist those wanting to get a bike train or walking school bus up and running. If you’re interested in learning more, you can ask your child’s school administration how to enlist Lisa’s assistance.

Learn more about this and many other important community matters at
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.

Upcoming Events
>> Running/Walking:
 Cape Cops 5K, Saturday, May 19, Cape Coral Yacht Club, CC (
 Run on the Green 5K, Monday, May 25, Eastwood Golf Course, Fort Myers (
>> Cycling and other events:
 Ride of Silence, Wednesday, May 20, Fort Myers & Sanibel (
 Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 15 (
SWFL Critical Mass, Friday, June 5, Downtown Fort Myers (

Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at or 334- 6417.

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