|2/8/2014 3:47:00 PM|
Still thankful for Coach
Was talking the other day to some folks I hadn't seen since leaving the hallowed halls of NHS. Great opportunity to catch up, reminisce, maybe exaggerate a little . . . One mentioned a coach they played for and said he would have run through a wall for the guy.
I didn't play for that coach, but Rich Clouse immediately popped in my head. He was that kind of coach for me. On this week, the week that we should take the time to stop and be thankful, it struck me as how a full 40 years later I still am thankful for the impact one coach had.
I played tennis for Coach C in the early 1970s. I was a skinny sophomore who had more spirit than talent. I'm sure I wasn't in the running to win the mental attitude award. I remember I got frustrated easily and displayed all the emotional maturity you'd expect from 6-year-old - which would have been OK if I hadn't been 15.
Our team overall wasn't that great either. At the time, we were in the Sagamore Athletic Conference with Carmel, Crawfordsville, Brownsburg, Frankfort and Lebanon. The competition was pretty good and we weren't.
Didn't seem to bother Coach.
It bothered me . . . a lot.
Up until that year I played football. The Millers, under legendary coach Jim Belden, were pretty good back then. All through junior high and freshman year, we didn't lose too many. I played tackle. Only problem . . . I went from 5-4, 140 in eighth grade to 6-1, 150 as a freshman.
Short and fat to tall and skinny.
Still played tackle.
At that time, high school letter sweaters were a coveted prize. They were also something you had to earn, as were letter jackets. You got one point for being on varsity and a half-point for being on a freshman or JV team. Three points earned you a sweater and six points a letter jacket. The goal was to get your jacket as quickly as possible, so when a buddy suggested a switch to tennis and that I could likely make varsity, I did.
It was very different. Football coaches were loud and proud. Coach C was quiet and reserved.
The football program won. A lot. Tennis didn't.
Every day the tennis team practiced. Every day this quiet, reserved gentleman would quietly lead his team. Every day he would stroll through the courts and offer a suggestion on a grip, footwork, strategy. Every day he would set an example, even if we didn't know it at the time.
In today's world, Tony Dungy comes to mind.
Junior year we had a shot to upset some rival. Can't remember who. One of our seniors had thrown his racket the week before- an absolute sin with Coach. Coach suspended him. Didn't matter that it cost us the chance to win. The senior sat.
Eventually, the lesson sank in. Coach was always teaching, always leading, always setting an example. Sports, like life, are about so many things. Be honest, be a good person, be a leader, work hard, earn what you get. The results are directly proportional to the sweat put in first.
Coach taught us all that and much more.
There's hardly a week that goes by some 40 years later that I don't think of him. Rich Clouse is retired from Southmont High School and lives over near Crawfordsville. I am lucky enough that I still see him from time to time. On this week when I sit down with family and give thanks for the many blessings I've had, Coach will be included on my list.
Run through a wall for Coach? You bet.
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