Landry, Bodwen, Osborne, Teaff, Dodd, Dooley, Dickey, Gaither, Curry, and a myriad more I knew them all, some very well. They defined college coaching greatness. Add to them a legion of unheralded other men and women who did and do more than coach X and Os.
The ranks of high school coaches I have know have among them some of society’s most influential citizens. They don’t just coach boys and girls they build men and women.
Coach Tom Landry told me that every day on high school campuses across America there is one man hundreds of students look at as something slightly less than God and they call him “coach.” That identifies how important a coach is in the lives of youth.
For six years I served as Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I spoke to numerous pro, college, and high school teams in a variety of sports.
Speaking at national conferences and retreats and athletes at the Hula Bowl for several years has allowed me to get to know some of the most outstanding big name athletes who are men and women of character. Many of them give generously of their time and resources to help young people.
Over the years I have also known some coaches and athletes who brought discredit to their role. Again some of them I have known well and know they regret their actions. Some engaged in action completely out of character for them and lament it greatly.
The good guys are big men and women in a big business: sports. While top level coaches garner enormous salaries some find their gratification not in remuneration but redemption of lives. I don’t want to disparage high salaried coaches and imply they aren’t concerned with the welfare of their athletes.
The notoriety is not as great, but the number of athletes is the same in Division One all the way to the NAIA. It is expanded in high school and organized teams outside schools.
The real value of sports is not only in the income derived from it, but the lives changed. If you want to make it merely a matter of economics, consider the number of athletes who if not involved with influential coaches would end up in prison. Some do, but more would if not for the influence of a good coach. That saves millions of dollars in court and prison costs.
The transformation of a person from a street person to a responsible citizen is of inestimable worth. This remodeling occurs in sports more than any other activity. One reason is it is one of the few areas of life where discipline is mandatory.
So many youth today come from dysfunctional homes. The only father or mother figure of character they know is the coach.
I ask one coach if most of his athletes were reared by a single parent and he said yes, the grandmother. Often the team is the only “family” the young athlete has known.
I have worked close enough with sports program recently to see the baggage many youth bring to school and the patient and often prayerful effort coaches of all disciplines make to redeem them. Any way you interpret the word “redeem” it is applicable in their case.
The arena of sports isn’t perfect, but overall it is vital to society. Judge it not at its weakest point.