Archive for September, 2014

Here’s to the coaches

“Those who work the hardest are the last to surrender” read the plastic sign next to the locker room door. Coach King never explicitly instructed us to slap it on our way to the court. We just knew.

Coaches have that kind of power. They hold sway over athletes because they have what athletes want: a spot on the team, playing time, scoring and winning opportunities, the prospect of recognition, even fame.

So, when Coach King said to run at 6 in the morning, I ran. When he said to take notes during team meetings, I wrote. When he said to dive for loose balls, I skinned my knees.

Coach had come to Nashville from rural Pennsylvania to be a country music songwriter. When the industry treated him the way it treats most artists, he fell into teaching and coaching.

He wasn’t your average teacher and coach. He quoted Meatloaf and used words like “denouement”. He was probably the only head high school basketball coach in America who also served as the English department chair. All that made him all the more memorable.

Naturally, I remember what Coach King said. For example,

“Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.”

Athletes arguably spend more direct time with their coaches than they do with any other adult, even parents. Sports fundamentals fill much of that time, but life philosophies also shine through. That’s partly what makes a coach’s influence so profound.

“When the Game Stands Tall”, in theaters now, profiles a high school football coach in northern California who prepares young men for life after football. He also happens to win a lot of games. 151 in a row at one point.

Coach Bob Ladouceur preaches love and becoming someone others can depend on. Like coaches across the country, he uses sport as a means to an end.

“The game by itself doesn’t stand tall,” Ladouceur told author Neil Hayes. “Without intangibles, in a certain sense, it’s barbarism. The violence isn’t what attracts me to it. It’s getting kids to play together and get along with each other. The game should be a teaching tool. It doesn’t stand tall on its own.”

Historically, Boerne has been blessed with coaches that inspire excellence on and off the field. Largely credit athletic director and long-time boys basketball coach Stan Leech for this.

I spent a week this summer with one of Leech’s basketball coaching colleagues. Jason Sweatman gave as much energy and effort to coaching underprivileged 10-year-olds as he does to coaching his high school players.

On the gridiron, Boerne High football coach Mike Dormady preaches passion, trust and discipline, the three traits blazoned on his program’s crest.

Dormady’s son, Quinten, plays quarterback for the Greyhounds. He is set to play college ball for the University of Tennessee next fall. One might expect some cockiness from the rising star considering the elevated status Aggie fans now give SEC football.

But while his six foot, four inch frame stands a head taller than most other players, the well-coached Dormady only uses his height advantage for the positive. He’s constantly  slapping the tops of his teammates’ helmets in gratitude for their efforts.

And it’s a pleasure to see. Even in the age of the ego, great coaches remind kids it’s still all about the team.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 


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