Ahead of the Game: Thank a coach, or two - The Explorer: Import

Ahead of the Game: Thank a coach, or two

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Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

October 18, 2006 - If Bob Daniels got in your face, you knew you had done something wrong. It took everything in your power to avoid Big Bob's wrath - not to mention his overpowering cigarette and coffee breath.

Coach Karpowicz was equally volatile. When he yelled, it took everything in your power to avoid the flying particles of chewing tobacco that were machine-gunning from his mouth.

The two of them didn't make for the greatest role models and certainly weren't the poster children for healthy living. But, when it came to coaching my high school basketball and baseball teams respectively, none were better at getting the most out of you.

Many of us who grew up playing sports, whether it was Little League, high school or college athletics, had that one coach who affected our lives in a positive manner.

They changed us, helped sculpt us into the people we've become today and created opportunities for us to shine. But did you ever thank them?

Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup thinks you should.

On Oct. 14, Walkup officially declared Oct. 15-22 as the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame "Thank a Coach" week. The Tucson mayor is urging each citizen this week to thank a coach, visit a practice, watch a game or simply encourage a young person to exercise.

Finding a worthy coach to thank or observe is easy. Just walk into any gym or practice field in Southern Arizona and you'll certainly find one.

There's not much money to be made as a coach unless your name is Lute Olson and earn more than $700,000 annually to work a mere 40 games - or roughly $17,500 a game if you don't count time spent recruiting. That figure pales in comparison to the $7 million - or $250,000 a paycheck - New York Yankees manager Joe Torre collects each year.

In the Marana Unified School District, a head coach who lasts 15 years with one sport earns $4,549 a year. It's a mere $1,000 pittance if you coach middle school sports.

So it's pretty obvious that most coaches don't do it for the money. They do it out of love of the sport and genuine desire to see young people succeed.

Coincidentally, Walkup's message comes at a time when some coaches are fighting a bad reputation. Last week, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced a Little League coach to one to six years in prison for allegedly offering to pay one of his players $25 to intentionally bean an autistic teammate before a game.

But one rotten apple shouldn't ruin the collective barrel.

If you thank any coaches - many of whom are former players - ask them why or how they got into their respective sports and positions. You'll find a wide variety of answers about how they started and mostly the same answers as to why they stayed.

Just like their players, at one point, many also had aspirations of making the big time.

"The dream was always to get there," said Canyon Del Oro High School head football coach Pat Nugent in August about why he never made the jump to the collegiate ranks and beyond. "With a family now it's tough to take a step back and be a low man on the totem pole in college; not many high school coaches get into college coaching. I think we're high school lifers."

Coaches, or lifers, as described by Nugent, aren't reserved for athletics. A coach can be anyone who teaches and inspires others, whether it's hitting a curveball, learning an instrument or teaching essay writing to the high school student working on his college-entry essays.

Surely a coach has impacted your life. Perhaps now is the time to give them thanks.

Me? I'll be shooting an e-mail to Hank Reese, my former varsity baseball coach to thank him for screaming at me for not hitting the cut-off man. I haven't missed one since.

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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