Remember that Nike commercial with Charles Barkley from years ago, the one that caused so much controversy … for telling the truth? Barkely stated in that commercial that athletes should not be role models, parents should. He is absolutely right folks, but often times, particularly in a kid’s life, a different adult takes on that role. Since I started by talking about an individual from the world of sports, let’s stay there and talk about coaches. In particular, I want to focus on two of mine.
There is one positive that has come out of my recent turn of events in regards to being employed. I have time on my hands now! It hit me yesterday just how much time I spent at the office, plus all the hours working from home. I strongly believe in a good work ethic. I watched my Dad work hard for years and years, and looking back realize how much of an impact he had on me in that regard.
However, in my case it was a few gentlemen outside my home that really impacted my life in a positive manner, and I have the fortune of seeing two of them today. One I already had planned to see this evening, a chance to see the other came about when he sent me an email asking how I was doing after getting the axe on Thursday.
I had two great wrestling coaches in high school, and to this day these two gentlemen are two of my closest friends. One spent hours teaching me move after move after move, preaching the theory of “Throw Him Down, Hold Him Down, Go Sit Down.” The other hammered into me putting forth a pure effort into the sport and into life, all the while reminding me that “Hard Work, Done Well, Feels Great.” I am talking about Gary Coley and Brian Metheny, my coaches from Sunnyslope High School.
My day gets rolling in a couple of hours when I meet Coach Gary Coley for breakfast. Coach Coley came into my life my sophomore year back in 1984. I have been involved with the sport of high school wrestling as a competitor and as a coach since 1983. I have yet to meet an individual that knows more about the sport and is capable of teaching the very delicate technique better. He was incredible, spending hours with me when I competed, but even more once I moved into the coaching realm. As busy as he always was with his work, he always found time to meet me at the gym, roll around and teach me new moves. Most of what I teach today comes directly from this gentleman.
This evening I head over to the home of Coach Brian Metheny for an evening of good conversation, plenty of time in front of the tube, and maybe a game or two of chess. My first introduction to Coach Metheny was as a freshman in his P.E. class. He talked me into coming out for wrestling that year, a move that impacted my life in a way I still cannot describe today. He was so tough, refusing to accept less than anyone’s best, but did it in such a way that I wanted to try harder than what I thought I was capable of doing. Once I graduated and began coaching the next year, he took me under his wing and taught me the art of coaching, particularly from the mental aspect of the game. Another incredible man.
Coach Coley terrified me and everyone else on our squad when he first became a part of the Vikings program in 1985. Coach Metheny had already been the head coach there for a few years and established his reputation as a stern taskmaster. I respected them both, but had no desire my first three years of high school to have any kind of relationship with either of them outside the wrestling room.
That changed in 1986, my senior year. The specific events that transpired with both gentlemen I will keep to myself. Personally I would rather brag about them and shout from the rooftop why these two coaches became such an important part of my life that year. All anyone needs to know is I “discovered” early that year how human, giving and caring they both are. The fact both of them took the time and spent the energy investing in me blew me away. It became apparent that year I needed to follow the two of them and learn from them.
Luckily for me the next year I had the opportunity to do just that. The winter of 1987 was Coach Coley’s last season coaching before retiring and becoming an official, and my first of nine years coaching for Coach Metheny at Sunnyslope. More important, it was the start of two of the most cherished and important friendships of my life, two relationships that still resonate today. They are both true role models, always teaching me, always caring for me, always making me feel that I am okay as a human being. I love both of these men dearly, and would gladly die for either of them if need be. They are both that important to me.
One of these days I have to get the three of us together at once, but for now I am content with the fact that on a Saturday in December, just two days after what I saw as a horrible day, I have the privilege of spending time with my two coaches. Life doesn’t get much better.