By MARTIN DAVIS
I’ve never stood in a more sacred space than the sidelines at Riverbend High School on a Friday night. The epiphanous moment occurs just as the final note of the National Anthem wanes, players and coaches don helmets and headsets, and 22 young men move to the field for 48 minutes of unrelenting struggle.
No place to hide. No one to blame. It’s you and your men, vs. them and their men.
I love that moment …
… and I hate it.
I hate it because too many who follow sports believe that this moment is the apex of sports and represents athletic competition is all about. On the other hand, too many who dislike sports see in that moment the glorification of values they dislike or fear.
The truth is, that moment is special not because of what’s about to happen, but because of everything that led up to it. The countless hours that players and coaches spend together. It’s not sexy. It’s not always fun. And it involves more work than most people can begin to imagine.
But it’s this stuff outside of the epiphany that matters. And it’s the stuff that my new book is all about.
In the pages of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, sports fans in the stands who wish they could feel the energy in the huddle just before kick-off will meet Coach Marvin Nash. An up and coming coach in Texas High School football, he is a sight to behold on Friday nights. Who wouldn’t want to be him?
But who would know how to deal with the tragedies and struggles he’s faced. He has watched one player die of a brain tumor, and lost another player to suicide. He has taken stands on grades that have gotten other coaches fired.
“I get to know every player,” he says, “by name and by need.”
That’s what great coaches do.
Fans and readers will also meet Coach Allie Kinniard and former coach, now athletic director, Pam Bosser. These two resurrected a field hockey program, and in the process stared down administrators, ungrateful parents, and others who said they couldn’t. They fought tooth and nail for years just so the women at Lancaster High School in Ohio could grow as athletes, leaders and human beings.
And for those who feel sports are overvalued, you’ll rethink that position when you learn about the thousands of lives Coach Maurice Henriques has set on a firm path to reaching the stars—quite literally in one case, a young woman who earned a spot in NASA’s astronaut program.
Or, when you learn about to the hundreds of men and women Coach Barry Wortman has set on a path to a successful life in countless fields through the simple game of basketball—most of whom never progress beyond the JV level, if they even play at all.
In my career as a journalist, I’ve traveled the world looking at institutions, nonprofits, schools, clubs, and more all trying to do the same thing–give kids a chance at a better life. And I can attest, no one does it better than high school coaches.
That’s not hyperbole. Everyone obsessed with data will be pleased to learn that that decades of research back up the conclusions drawn from these stories.
Appreciating all that coaches do will help you understand the incredibly tight bond that forms between players and coaches, and the life-altering changes it sparks. You’ll also find that the very same tactics these coaches use can be used by anyone who works with high school-aged students.
It’s true—not everyone gets to experience that Friday night epiphany (or Saturday night, or Thursday night, or any night two high school teams face each other on America’s field, courts, and tracks). But everyone can come to a deeper appreciation of why this moment is as intense and pure as any moment in life. It’s a celebration of what’s to come, but a moment of appreciation for everything we’ve gone through together to get there. And it’s a testimony to growth that everyone in that group has gone through.
At the end of the day, anyone who works with high school kids is working toward the same end.
Whether you like sports or not, the lessons here will move you and make you a better mentor.
After all, when it comes to raising our children, we’re all on the same team.
Care to learn more?
Front Edge Publishing has created an 80-second video that captures the excitement we all feel surrounding this book’s launch, this week. Please, enjoy that video, share it with friends—and order a copy of this book that celebrates dozens of coaches nationwide.