Jared Lankford: What makes a good coach?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One of the first trips I ever took without my parents was to the state capitol when I was 10.

I was with a small group from 4-H and we had a great time. We toured the dome in Jefferson City, met then-Governor John Ashcroft, sat in on a session of the legislature, and then rode the bus four hours back home.

Before we unloaded, our extension agent, Roy Jean Carter, made a statement that stuck with me.

"I want you all to know that I care about you guys," he said. "If you ever find yourself in trouble, need a ride or someone to talk to, I am here for you."

Roy was sincere and genuine in his remark. To some, it may not seem like much, but for me, it was the first time I could remember someone, other than my parents or family, expressing an interest in my well-being.

Over the last few years, I have interviewed a few of Monett's great athletes.

All of them, in telling me their stories, credited a coach, teacher or mentor in helping them achieve their goals.

I think we have lost some perspective as nation when it comes to the role of a high school coach.

Some have adopted a college system mindset of if you can't create a winner in four years, we'll find someone who will.

I believe that we can't judge a coach, at the high school level, based on wins and losses alone.

First of all, a coach has little control over the talent that is in each grade level.

Secondly, these men and women were employed as educators first and coaches second.

So how do you judge a coach?

I believe it is very simple.

A good coach has these qualities:

* They teach their kids the game, responsibility and how to overcome adversity.

* Their teams are better at the end of the season than the beginning.

* They set an example worth following through high moral character and integrity.

* They care about their students' success in the classroom, on the field and in life.

When I interview a coach, I ask myself, "Is this a person that I can trust to teach my child."

There is a story about the late Monett coach Burl Fowler that few people know.

Fowler, while still at Seneca, befriended a young man who came from a struggling, single-parent family.

One day, that boy ran away from home and ended up in a town three hours away. His mother didn't have the means to get him and with tears in her eyes asked Fowler if he could help.

At his own expense, Fowler drove and picked up the young man, but his attention didn't stop there, he made sure the boy did his school work, and then he helped the young man get into college. Even while at Monett, Fowler checked up on that young man.

Although he never lived to see the final result, Burl made a difference, for that young man went on to become a school superintendent, at Seneca no less, and dedicated his life to helping others.

I would hope that we all have that person who helped make a difference in our life. For me, it was Roy Jean Carter, a person who my parents trusted enough to let me travel with and be a role model.

I would hope that for the sporting community, it would be our coaches, and we base our judgments on more than just the final score.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of The Cassville Democrat He can be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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