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Coaches instill lifetime of lessons in student-athletes

Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher

Photos by CAScoreboard Photographers 

CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – A meme floated through social media last week and was even posted to the Central Alabama Scoreboard Facebook page asking the simple question: “Why do you coach?”

That question along with one other was sent to the coaching members of the Coverage Community.

“In college, I tried to think of someone who really stuck out to me for life lessons and such and I usually came up with a coach,” wrote Dadeville High Softball Coach Jordan McGuire. “I wanted to provide insight and give opportunities to students that they might not get otherwise.”

McGuire’s response falls right in line with an article written last year by James Gels in 2017 (The Importance of a Strong Coach-Athlete Relationship / In that article Gels posits that: “Relationships are the foundation of coaching and … it’s the coach’s responsibility to pursue a relationship with their athletes. Coaches hold a place of respect and authority, but still feel reachable enough for athletes to open up and view their coach as a role model or a mentor.”

“I became a coach after being inspired by my high school baseball coaches at Jefferson Davis High School (Sonny Vandevender, Steve Bailey and Tommy Goodson),” wrote Prattville High Softball Coach Brian Pittman. “Being a part of the program, they ran and watching and understand not only the lessons they taught me on the field but off the field and in life really inspired me to want to be in that profession and to not only help my athletes be successful on the field, but also off the field and in life.”

Paraphrasing Gels here, but coaches help student-athletes learn the importance of being good people by ensuring the “athlete’s growth as a positive, ethical and moral person.”

“I became a coach because I have a passion for the sport of basketball and love the idea of helping a group of kids come together and reach a common goal,” said Jason Roberson, varsity basketball coach at Prattville Christian. His Panthers just repeated as Class 3A Girls State Champion. “Most importantly, the reason I chose to coach is to hopefully make a difference in my player’s lives and help them fulfill their dreams they never knew were possible in the beginning.”

From one championship coach to another.

Jason Fisher – who recently led the Edgewood Wildcats on a historic run to their first AISA Class AA Girls State Basketball Championship – said several reasons affected his decision to become a coach: “The first was the passion I have for sports and for competition. I love showing up to a game after practicing and letting these players perform at a high level. My coaches showed me what was possible with putting in the work and I wanted to be that guy who could also show these young people that same thing. The next reason, I was a cop in Montgomery and saw many young kids ruining their lives. I wanted to be a person they could turn to or even be that person to show them what they could become if they put in a little work.”

To another …

“I became a coach because I’m a second-generation coach with both parents being my mentors,” said Dusty Perdue, Coach of the Class AAA Girls State Champion Glenwood Gators. “I also love helping kids in the form of athletics and sports with the finality of them becoming great men and women in our society. The old saying is, and it goes well with why we do what we do, ‘it’s not always about the X’s and O’s. It’s about Jimmy’s and Joe’s!’ I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

To another …

“As a young man I got into coaching originally for an opportunity to make a living while staying involved in the sports I have always loved,” said Edgewood’s Championship-winning basketball coach Daryl Free. “Quickly I realized the opportunity to influence young people. I saw how vulnerable a young mind is, especially around athletics. There are more young people who do not go to school or even church voluntarily. However, most show up to practice voluntarily and are willing to listen to their coach. There is a better place to be a positive influence. As I’ve gotten older as a coach I’ve realized it’s all about the kids and not about my record. If that ever changes it will be time to move on.”

The one commonality most coaches have is the ability to shape futures. Some futures involve competing at the next level while other paths may veer away from the fields of competition. It’s up to the coaches to demand the most of their student-athletes. Statistics show that around 50 percent of student athletes (both male and female) go into the coaching profession after their competitive days have ended and that career choice is attributed to having a good coach.

“I became a coach because participating in volleyball alone wasn’t enough,” said Glenwood volleyball coach – and a championship winning one at that – Kayla Strength. “I can’t get enough of the game. I also love creating relationships with the players and helping them to develop their talents; seeing things they don’t see in themselves until one day they have the ‘aha moment’ is awesome to experience.”

Going back to what Perdue said … It’s about Jimmy’s and Joe’s and what happens next in their lives.

Pittman: “The one lesson I hope all my players learn while in my program is that there will be ups and downs not only on the field but in life. It’s not how you get knocked down but how you get back up and keep moving forward to accomplish the goal or task in front of you. I treasure the time I have with my players and love to see them not only succeed on the field but in life – whether it’s playing in college, going to school and getting their degrees and becoming great mother’s wife and people in the future.”

Here’s what a few other Coverage Community Coaches had to say:

Mark Hall – St. James – Softball: “I have been around athletics my entire life and I love the opportunity to compete. That’s one of the main reasons I became a coach: Competing! Coaching young athletes comes with great responsibility and good coaches don’t take that lightly. Being about to be a positive influence on a young child has to be one of the biggest honors and reasons I coach. Being with them almost daily, watching them go through struggles with the game and with life; being  there to help them with both and watching them come out successful is as good as it gets. I remember the coaches I’ve had through the years and the relationships I’ve had with them are so much bigger than the game. I want to be the same for all the kids I am blessed to coach. It may not be the initial reason I became a coach, but it definitely is now.

Jared Walker – Wetumpka High – Softball: “I first started coaching right out of high school at 18 years old. Then, it was to help fill a void since I wasn’t able to go to the next level. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the position of being a coach. Seeing young guys learn to play the sport and then learning to love the sport, got me hooked! Then I had kids of my own. The joy of coaching my own became a new passion. Teaching my kid to play a sport that I loved was a dream come true. I was able to coach my son for six or seven years. After a few short years of fatherhood, I transitioned over to softball. Taking a short, awkward 3 year old girl from a dirt castle builder to a hard working athlete, was one of the greatest jobs that I’ve ever had. Even though my oldest is no longer in the sport, I still get to enjoy the joy of seeing these girls reach their goals. I just wish that these young ladies had the same mindsets for the game as that awkward little 3 year old did. Somewhere along the way, they lose the true meaning of why they play the game. I love to coach! I’ll continue to do so as long as the opportunity presents itself.

Mark Segrest – Elmore County High – Softball: “Even though I have been coaching baseball or softball for 30 years, it’s never been my full time job. I do enjoy spending my leisure time coaching, with hope of instilling discipline and work ethic into the young ladies. I really care deeply for the girls and understand the value of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. I’m a firm believer in helping the girls develop the right skills, both physically and mentally to thrive in the tough work that we live in today. I want these players to leave here with self confidence and a certain level of mental toughness as they get ready to attack their next career challenge.”

Founder/Publisher of Central Alabama Scoreboard. Former sportsguy, managing editor, currently working for the City of Tallassee as a Public Information Specialist and grant writer.

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