The Way I See It...
Robin Rogers, Ed.D.
Beginning in late August, Friday nights in Texas and Arkansas are sacred. High school football is the religion, and the stadium is home to its worshippers. Football brings people of a community together in the best way.
I was married to a coach at one time. He was handsome, smart, and great at his job. His father was a coach, his uncle was a coach, and his brother is currently a coach. You get the idea. Well, in the coaching business, good coaches move around to move up. My heart couldn’t handle leaving my family in Texarkana. I was way too young to have gotten married, and we parted on good terms. He became a very successful coach in the Dallas area. Anyway, I have a huge respect for coaches and all they do to prepare players, both mentally and physically, on the field and off. Two-a-day practices start in the summer just past daybreak, and sometimes end when it’s dark thirty. Coaches, for many young people, are parental figures, especially for those who may not have the most supportive parents at home. Coaches expect from their players oftentimes more than anyone else expects from these kids. Coaches know just how far to push players as they train them in technique and in determination mind-set.
My most recent experiences with coaches have been as the parent of an athlete. My oldest daughter, Ellen, played soccer from grade school through college. She talks about her former coaches all the time and has taken my favorite adage—“You learn from a bad manager as much as you do from a good one”—and tweaked it to reflect her time as an athlete, working and learning under a variety of coaches. She was lucky in that the vast majority of her coaches were strong role models and educators, who mentored their players on and off the field.
Educators in general are important, but I think we sometimes overlook the huge responsibility that coaches hold. As a former teacher, the child of a teacher, and the parent of a teacher, I believe strongly in the importance of academic teachers, but we shouldn’t forget that it’s on the field or the court where so many life lessons are taught. Ellen likes to say that she learned one of her favorite “rules” from her first-ever soccer coach, in the fourth grade: “On time is late, and early is on time.” To this day, she arrives everywhere notoriously early, and she tells me I have Coach Greg to thank for that.
Every coach has the potential to change the lives of their players, and even to change the culture of their school and city. As most athletes or former athletes will tell you, at the high school or collegiate level, it’s usually the freshmen who end up doing the grunt work and “earning their place” on the team. For some teams, this works great, but for others, it demoralizes the novice players and gives the older players a false sense of superiority. Coach Dustin Holly, Ellen’s high school soccer coach during her latter years, flipped the script: the upperclassmen were responsible for setup and take down before and after practice; they washed the bibs; they gathered the water; they made sure that everything ran smoothly. The younger kids were mentored and nurtured into players who felt pride for their team, so that one day, they’d be seniors who were happy to do the “dirty work” necessary for the team to run smoothly. Extra responsibility was not a chore to be done begrudgingly; it was a badge of honor. What was once a culture of disrespect became a culture of leadership. That revolution impacted my daughter for sure; she says she thinks about it every time she finds herself on a team or in a leadership position. I’m sure it impacted others as well.
Every coach is different, of course, and different practices work for different groups of people. But there are a few commonalities that tie all good teams together: hard work, love for the game, and excellent coaches. It’s these qualities that shape players into adults with character, leadership ability, and grit. These are also the qualities that win games.
Pleasant Grove High School’s athletic director and head football coach, Josh Gibson, is one of these excellent coaches, who leads young people to championships and into adulthood. As you surely know by now, he coached the Hawks all the way to become the 2017 4A-Division II State Champions. He was voted the 2017 Texas 4A Coach of the Year by both Texas Sports Writers and Dave Campbell and was named the 2017 ETSN Coach of the Year. Without a doubt, he has made a difference in our community, in ways we can see today and in ways that will continue to manifest for years to come. I’m certain that once you read his story in this month’s issue, you will agree with this assessment. His story is among other amazing tales that relate to education this month: stories of teachers and students who have leveraged education to make the world a better place. Just as the summer winds down, I hope these stories leave you inspired as they have left me. As always, thanks for reading FSLM.