Hey, Coach

During a recent conversation with my wife, we stumbled onto an odd truth:                        the perceptions, both good and bad,  we had of our teachers and coaches 30+ years ago as kids and teens proved to be accurate and remain mostly unchanged today.

The ones I respected then, I respect now. The ones that I thought were just bullies then, not much has happened to change my mind.

“Did it not occur to some of them that we would eventually grow up and be their peers?” Maybe it didn’t. Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they’re just not nice people.

Thankfully, the number of names that I would toss into the “not nice” category would make for a very short list. But the names on that list (a secret one, of course) do serve as a healthy reminder……to be kind. To never fail to earn the respect of the kids that I’m privileged to coach or mentor at church. They’ll be adults someday.

I still see a couple of my high school teachers pretty much every week at church and usually have an opportunity to pause and say “hello” to them. In high school, these ladies were kind, they cared about me, and they cared if I learned. And those positive memories come to the surface every single time I smile and speak. I’m assured that those teachers had a positive impact in my life, and I’m thankful for them.

I attended a high school basketball game recently, and took a seat by myself in upper level seating in my old high school gym. After a few minutes of play during the JV game I spotted my old high school coach down on the floor level and decided to go speak to him at halftime. But before the half ended I found myself surrounded by a group of young ladies. A group of 6 or 7 of my middle school basketball players invaded my quiet space.

On the surface, it could have seemed like they were being pests. But the truth is, it made me feel pretty special. Not because a bunch of middle school kids chose to gather around a slow moving, dad joke spewing, boring old guy. But because I was reminded that, because of the time I’m privileged to spend with these kids, I’m a pretty important guy.

I glanced across the gym floor to see my coach getting settled in at the media table, getting set up to do the radio call for the upcoming varsity game. He’s a pretty important guy in my book. And I couldn’t help thinking, “If he looks up here and sees me surrounded by this slew of kids, does he see his own impact in it all”.  His legacy. The number of kids that he coached that have become coaches. And all the kids that those guys have coached that have gone on to coach?

I’ve always had great respect for my coach. And I still address him simply as “Coach” and I always will. I’m well aware now that my time with him and my team have made me just a little bit better at being a dad, a husband, a boss, a servant of my Lord, and a coach.

I turned on my radio tonight to catch the end of my school’s first round district tournament game, and heard Coach Baker doing the analyst work for the broadcast. It was a close game. As the final minutes played out, I kept hearing him use unique phrases that I often use when coaching. And in the final minute, with East Carter playing defense in a tie game, I heard the phrase that was burned into my brain in high school, “Just play good position defense”.

East Carter hung on in the end for a dramatic win, and I started texting with my son, who’s away at college, after the game (my coach’s son coached my son in high school). He had listened to the game on the radio as well. So I just had to ask him if he noticed the comment about “playing good position defense”. And I knew that he had. He’d heard it plenty from me in his middle school days and as we’d watched games together on TV. And I’m sure he heard it all through high school as well. But what he may not have understood is the impact that Coach Baker has had on pretty much every single coach that’s ever coached him. That’s a legacy.

Coaches. Teachers. What’s it gonna be?

It’s okay if people don’t like you. That’s to be expected if you’re a leader. It’s even okay if people think you’re a jerk. But it’s not okay if people think you’re a jerk and they’re right.

I’m thankful for coaches and teachers in my past that earned my respect and never lost it. I want to be one of those people.

In the coming years, I’m hopeful to be greeted regularly on the streets, gyms, and in churches by both men and women……….who just smile and say, “Hey, Coach”, while good thoughts and memories stir inside them.

Hey Coach…….If you get to read this…….sorry I didn’t speak the other night. I was doing some important stuff…….just like you.


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