The influential coach I needed – and remember | GUEST OP

  • Thursday, October 26, 2017 3:30pm
  • Opinion

Almost every star athlete has a story about a coach who was a major influence in their success. But what about the kids who aren’t even good enough to warm the bench?

Growing up, I was always the undersized, bookish kid, with terrible hand-eye coordination. I was routinely picked last for teams. In my early years, I avoided athletics whenever I could and hung back when I couldn’t. That all changed when I went to Auburn High School and encountered coach Tony Higgins.

At the end of my first semester sophomore PE class, Higgins took my friend Mike and I aside. He informed us that we graced the bottom end of the curve in the class and would each be getting a D. The coach set up an appointment for us with the special ed PE teacher, so we could consider transferring into that class for the next semester. We met with him and came away with the impression that it could be fun and maybe the right idea. Mike opted to transfer, but I decided there was no way I was going to be labeled as special ed in PE.

I stuck with the regular class but now, I threw myself into it. I was still small and uncoordinated but at the end of the semester I had earned a B. Most PE teachers have no time for the athletically un-gifted, but Coach Higgins encouraged me and rewarded my efforts.

That gave me enough confidence to turn out for both track and diving. I regularly came in second to last in my track events but in diving scored some points in meets. To my own surprise, I lettered in both sports. Coach Higgins coached neither sport, but when he saw me in the locker room he often dropped by and asked how I was doing.

Thanks to the sophomore year challenge and subsequent encouragement by Tony Higgins, I learned to enjoy athletic activities. I’m still no star but have started and finished two marathons and run dozens of long distance races. Last spring my wife and I hiked more than 500 miles across northern Spain. Kayaking, biking, and backpacking are a regular part of my life.

In my experience, most coaches pay attention mostly to the true athletes and ignore the bench warmers. Fortunately for me, Tony Higgins took an interest and gave me a lifelong appreciation for athletic activity.

Auburn’s Dennis Brooke retired from corporate IT management and is now a novelist. His first book, “The Last Apostle,” was a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers Debut Novel of the Year. He and his wife now travel and write about their adventures at WorldRovers.com

More in Opinion

Eyman putting his latest fight on his tab

Activist using own money in signature-gathering drive to place a $30 car tab measure in front of voters

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Brunell

With Western States wildfires growing in size and destroying more homes, farms… Continue reading

Growth, knowledge, learning at your library | KCLS

Spring is the time of year when many of us focus on… Continue reading

Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
                                Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
Eyman says he will spend $500K of his own money on initiative

The conservative activist’s self-financing claim points to a lack of deep-pocketed donors.

Cleaning up the complex | Metzler

Solving the multifamily recycling puzzle

Lawmakers hope to examine concerns of Sea-Tac International Airport and its impact on the quality of life in places like SeaTac, Burien, Des Moines, Tukwila and Federal Way.
State antes up money to address bevy of issues

From wolves to airplanes, state looks to tackle issues

Innovative library program emerges for the 21st century | KCLS

The King County Library System has long been committed to offering a… Continue reading

Earth Day flashback: 30 years of Puget Sound recycling | Metzler

What were you doing in 1988? Catching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in… Continue reading

Trade war could hit Washington hard | Brunell

Any trade war between the United States and China is worrisome, but… Continue reading

State feeds more money to public schools

But bargaining may soon begin for union, lawmakers

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes | Brunell

As we deal with our population growth, we must address sufficient supplies… Continue reading