By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s something special about the bonds made through sports. The impact can last far longer than the seasons themselves.

This holiday season, a community south of the Twin Cities is remembering a woman who impacted so many in her small town of Jordan. Mary Bright shined a bright light on the town’s school and the athletes she coached, a place that became her home.

“I think it started with my dad. He loved the game of baseball, and we lived on a farm and she was the youngest,” said sister Bonnie Hyatt.

Bright took her love for sports and turned it into a job as a social worker and coach at Jordan High School.

“She loved her student athletes, she loved competing. She showed that in her passion for the players, and not just them on the field, but also for them as individuals and them as young women,” said principal Jeff Vizenor.

A few weeks ago, they lost that coaching confidant. She succumbed to a two-year battle with cancer at the age of 57. And all those memories of time spent on the softball field and in the gymnasium where she once coached the volleyball team came flooding back.

“It was very tough, for the first two weeks. I knew she had been struggling for awhile, so at that point, once I found out she was in hospice, it was almost like, ‘OK, I’m glad she’s in a better place.’ But it was definitely difficult,” said former softball and volleyball player Brooke Sievers. “She held you to a high standard on and off the field, but she always was like your own personal cheerleader.”

But her place for most of her recent past was right there. Jordan was her town, her school, her kids, and her extended family.

“She loved Jordan. They were good to her, and it was more than just the coaching part. She developed kids, right from wrong,” said Hyatt.

Her love for the games went well beyond coaching; she was a season ticket-holder to the Lynx, Gopher women’s basketball and softball. She loved it.

The scoreboard at the softball field is named after her because she made an impact on the field and in her town, because Bright cared a lot about the kids, and that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.

“Right to the end, Mary was a great battler and competitor,” Vizenor said.

Mike Max