Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Coaches

As most people who have met me know, I'm a very proud Native of Bryan, Texas.  Although I haven't lived there since August of 1996, it is my hometown and I hold it near and dear to my heart.  My wife is from there, too, and we visit pretty regularly.

Every morning, I go through my news websites, which consist of checking CNN, the Houston Chronicle, and then the Bryan/College Station Eagle.  Although Houston is my home now, and the hometown of both my boys, Bryan is never too far away from me.  That's a part of my life that I am grateful for.

Today, I saw two pieces of news from my hometown that made me stop and think about growing up, and how much those days shape who you are and who you will become.  Before I go too much further, let me expressly state that I am NOT reliving Glory Days with this post. Under no stretch of the imagination was I a star (or even semi-decent) athlete.  I was terrible.  I weighed 160 lbs, ran about a 3 minute 40 yard dash, and couldn't catch a football if you handed it to me.

But I played high school football for Bryan High School.  It largely consisted of me getting the crap knocked out of me during practice and sitting on the bench during games, but I "played."  At the end of my senior year, we finished 4-7 and I couldn't be more relieved that it was over.

But I was proud that no matter how bad it was, I never quit.

Looking back on those years, I remember each and every one of the coaches that I had.  You spend a lot of time talking to them when you are consistently on the sidelines.  The ones that I played for growing up in Bryan are people that I still remember vividly 26 years past my graduation.  The vast majority of my favorite stories from high school happened in the brutal heat of the practice field of Bryan High School, which is now named Merrill Green Stadium, after our head coach.

I adored Coach Green.  He ultimately retired and became President of the School Board.  He's an icon in the town, and I'm proud to say I (limitedly) played for him.  Other coaches stand out in my memories, as well.  Coach Patterson, Coach Bergland, Coach Vass, Coach Batchelor, Coach Fritsche.  I have funny stories involving them all.

But my favorite coach was David Powers.  He retired this year after 34 years of coaching.  Although he finished his coaching career as the Head Baseball coach, I knew him way back when he coached junior high and then high school.  He coached baseball and he also coached the defensive ends in football.

He was the faculty sponsor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when I was in 9th grade.  I remember that he always brought his son, Beau, to the school and games with him whenever he could.  On top of being a good coach, he was a good example.

Yeah, that's me, rockin' the butt cut, next to Coach Powers.

Coach Powers brought out the best in his good players, and he was never anything less than encouraging of those of us who stunk were not so good.  As a coach he made sure his door was open to those kids who needed advice.  He was realistic and real with the kids he talked to, and we all respected him for it.  I remember in 9th grade when two kids had a beef with each other, he mediated it, making sure that the beef was done that day and didn't carry over.

I remember one night in January of 1991.  I went to eat at Red Lobster with my girlfriend and her mom.  As we were waiting for our table, the news broke that the U.S. had begun military operations against Iraq.  By coincidence, Coach Powers was in the lobby, and was watching the breaking news.  I remember his look of concern and he told me he was praying for the soldiers in the Middle East and he was praying for those of us who might be of age to be called there.  It was genuine worry over the kids he coached and it was something I never forgot.

Although our football team my senior team wasn't all that great, our basketball team was.  We had a lot of good players who went on to play college ball, and they made our senior year something to talk to about.

One of our star players was Eric Jackson.  Like most guys I went to school with in Bryan, I can't even remember when I first met him.  He was one of those guys that it seems like I always knew.  

We weren't particularly close, although we were friendly.  He was a very outgoing and very nice guy.  I remember him as being very religious and very devoted to being the best basketball player and teammate that he could be.  As it is with so many classmates, I kept up with him on Facebook and was glad to see that he was happy in life. Married.  Kids.  He became a high school basketball coach.
  
Over the years, Eric coached at Temple, Tomball, Grand Prairie, Hillsboro, and Kennedy Middle School.  Ultimately, he ended up as head coach of the basketball program at Rudder High School in Bryan.  In 2010, he was named Coach of the Year by the Houston Area Basketball Coaches Association.  It was an award aptly given to a good man.

I was extremely saddened to read that Eric passed away yesterday after having been ill for some time.  My heart goes out to his family and all of those he coached and influenced.  But in this time of sadness, it has been heartwarming to see how many teammates and kids that he coached sharing how much he meant to them.  Tributes of how he sent them inspirational Bible passages, and guided them through tough times were a good reminder of the positive influences that our coaches often play in our lives.

We are usually too young to fully appreciate our coaches in the time and the moment when they are in our lives.  Often it is only hindsight that makes us fully appreciate the jobs they did.  In retrospect, those coaches are the first adults that treat kids as some semblance of an adult.  They share their experience, their example, and their advice.  They also hold us accountable and make us live up to expectations in a way that is different than what we learn from our families.

As I do with many of my posts, I recognize that I'm probably rambling.  So I'll end this simply by saying "thanks."

Thanks to the coaches like Coach Powers and Coach Jackson.  Thanks for the patience.  Thanks for the guidance.  Thanks for the leadership.  Thanks for caring.  The mark you make on lives may not always be immediately evident, but it becomes so very palpable in our later years.  

Even to us benchwarmers.

Thanks for 34 great years to Coach Powers as he takes his well-deserved retirement.

And thanks to my classmate Eric Jackson for the job he did in shaping so many lives.  His memory and positive influence will carry on longer than he probably ever imagined.

2 comments:

Thomas Hobbes said...

Thanks for adding "butt cut" to my vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

Judge Pat was my mentor and life coach. The office sure could use her wise guidance and managerial expertise--both in and out of the courtroom.

Jimmy Leitner, not so much. He was always squirrelly.