I’ve remained in teaching and coaching for 37 years and there’s one primary reason why I keep going back: I love changing lives. And my words have the power to do that. I keep returning because nothing quenches my thirst and validates everything I stand for like giving student-athletes the confidence to accomplish something they never dreamed possible.
My first varsity coaching job was cross country, which was the quintessential place to start because I soon realized that, even more important than the type of training I subjected my runners to (both boys and girls), it was the mental part of distance training where I excelled. I had never done any type of distance running or training when I was in high school or college, but I had kids in my high school cross country program who would run through walls for me. I quickly came to understand that when high schoolers are forced to endure physical pain, they will not only continue to do so, but they will do it willingly as long as they feel valued, respected, and appreciated.
Relationships Lead to Breaking Barriers
I was fortunate enough to be able to foster relationships that led to many of my runners feeling like they could run farther and faster than they ever had. I bought them suckers for their birthday, made huge coolers of Powerade during our summer runs, and called every runner during the summer once a week to see how each was doing and feeling (we didn’t have emails or texts back then). I made signs, sent cards, penned notes, etc, to let them know just how special they were to me, to their teammates, and to their school.
And it worked.
We won 13 consecutive District Championships (boys and girls), and while we never won a state title, every runner seemed to perform at his or her peak in the races that counted the most. I never got mad or acted disappointed with anyone’s performance. I loved their effort and I let them know it on a daily basis. And they loved that I loved their effort.
I started with one runner, and three years later, the athletic director needed to order 36 uniforms.
This is what defines me. I know nothing about politics, world affairs, home or car repairs or maintenance. In fact, the list of what I DON’T continues on and on. But I know people…and more specifically, I know what means the most to teens. I know they long for respect, appreciation, and self-worth. They want to feel valued by their peers, but just as importantly, by adults.
Several parents nowadays just don’t seem to get it. But the most successful coaches ALWAYS do.
Can’t Wait to Start My 38th Year of Public Education
I look forward to working one on one with the hitters I coach as an assistant varsity softball coach, the same way I did in cross country, track, basketball, and football, all sports I’ve coached during my career. The relationships I’ve fostered and lives I’ve changed with my words give my life meaning…and value.
Yesterday I dropped off a small gift bag and inspirational note at the homes of each of my 63 students from this past year that was abruptly cut short. It took nearly five hours, but I loved every minute of it.
I’ve taught and coached for nearly four decades, yet I can’t—and I won’t--even consider the thought of retiring. I have too much left in my tank.
Sevwins Guest Blogger, Bob Kitchen Author and Assistant Softball Coach Madeira High School, Cincinnati, OH