As the weather starts to turn spring-like in the south, the smell of new grass reminds me of Spring practice at Auburn in the ‘80’s and coaches yelling ‘Shulman, get in there’. For me, spring practice was always the most fun. Winter was over, we were all strong and healthy from off-season work outs, there was an optimism about the new season, little to no pressure with real games months away and it was getting warmer! I immediately reflect on the very first drill that Coach Dye ever saw me in. It was a punting drill to allow the end rushers to block your punt and your job was to get the ball off as quickly as possible. I jumped up right away to be first in the drill and I remember noticing my hands shaking as I prepared to nail one long and high. As I caught the ball and went through my steps Kevin Porter, All-SEC DB with the biggest thighs you’ve ever seen, ran by me and smacked the ball out of my hands. He could have crushed me so I appreciate the fact that all he did was humiliate me as he went by laughing. Coach Dye lit me up and told Lewis Colbert, our All-American starter, to get in there and show us how it’s done. I was shell-shocked and devastated. I realized in an instant that if I was going to ever play for Auburn at this level that I better grow up mentally and get right back in and get better. Lewis hit two or three and then Coach Dye yelled ‘give me a new one’ and I eagerly jumped in again. As I stood there waiting for the snap he said ‘son, you better get this off or they are going to kill you’. I took a deep breath caught the ball and hit a decent punt that turned over.
In that 4 min span I learned a lot about life. One of the great things about sports is that there is no-where to hide. Everything is exposed and you must either overcome your obstacle or fold. Many times, that obstacle is in your own head. Or as Coach Dye used to say ‘you wrestle with your demons.’
Coach Dye had a huge impact on my life. Not my football life but real life. My father passed away when I was a sophomore and I was lost and not sure what to do or how I would go on. He reached out and picked me up and was always there me…for all of us. He created an environment of love at Auburn. We were family and everyone pulled for each other. We pulled for Auburn. I had a chance to see him last year at the spring game with all the other former captains. He looks great, was his usual witty self and I could have spent all day with him. I’m so thankful for him, Coach Waldrop, Coach Davis, Blakeney, Sullivan, Carter Cardwell and the list goes on. All those men helped shaped who I am and I’ve passed that on to my children and all the kids I get to coach in youth sports.
I invite you to share about your coaching influences. Post about your coaching influences. Which coach impacted your life the most? In my book, The Death of Sportsmanship, I discuss my relationship with my high school, Gene Andrews. Next to my father he was the best male influence in my life. Actually, had him and his son, Scott, out to see my youngest son, Cole, playing hockey at Bridgestone Arena the other day. It was so great catching up with him and seeing what a great young man Scott has become. Not surprising considering Coach A’s influence.
Share your brief story in the comments section…and thank that coach who positively impacted your life.
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