Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Coach's Influence

When does it hit you, the awareness of how a teacher or coach shaped your life? Some recognize it while it is happening; for others it may take years.

A few boys who played for Les Hipple understood it from the beginning. They saw him as a father figure. "I knew he was trying to help me," said Russ Seeks, halfback, forward, sprinter, and, later, corporate executive.

But Hipple was tough and demanding, not kindly. So others recognized his influence when they joined the military. As they dealt with the rigors of basic training they sensed in themselves a physical and mental toughness that was missing in some of the other recruits, and they traced its source to Hipple.

One man insisted it was Hipple's influence that gave him the strength to crawl out of a ditch after a car accident and wave down a passing motorist.

It was not until 15 years after high school that I realized how profoundly the man had affected me. I was trapped in a failing marriage and seeing a counsellor.

"You can't quit," I told him. "You can't stop trying. You can't just pull off the road and sit there."

And he said, "Oh, yes you can. You can pull off for a time and just sit there as you decide what to do next. You don't have to keep driving straight ahead."

A feeling of great relief swept over me. I was almost euphoric in the realization that I could change my life in ways I never thought possible.

Later, as I thought about the experience, I realized whose voice it was in the back of my head saying, "Quitters never win and winners never quit." It was Les Hipple's voice, and in this case he was wrong.

What do you remember about a favorite coach or teacher?

-- Dan Kellams