Remembering Richard

 

It is hard to imagine that it has been three years since I lost one of my childhood best friends. If you knew me from the ages of eleven through twenty, you also knew Richard, because we were pretty much inseparable. Three years ago Richard passed away from a quick bout with cancer and luckily a lot of his friends and family were there with him. I wrote this speech to read at his funeral. 

It is my hope that by sharing it now that people that knew Richard will spend time this week remembering your special times with him. If you did not know him, he was a great guy, and hopefully this will get you to think about the special times you had with your childhood best friends.

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As I sat down to write this I was really worried that it was going to be hard to get through up here. Then I thought about how Richard would have punched me hard in the arm if I did not make it through, so I plan to get through it all.

Thanks to everyone that is here (First Baptist was jam-packed for Richard’s funeral), it is a true tribute to how great of a guy Richard was. I think everyone that was there with Richard this past Thursday in the hospital would agree on a couple things. He was truly loved by everyone in the room. He passed on in a very peaceful manner.  And everyone could see just how strong the Bagnal family really is. Mr. and Mrs. Bagnal, and Mara, I am truly sorry for your loss.

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The first time I met Richard was at Striker’s soccer tryouts in 5th grade, and we became instant friends, where there were probably few days over the next 7 or 8 years that we didn’t talk.

There were a couple things about Richard that drove me crazy though. On Thursday, there was talk in the hospital room that three of his grandparents would be waiting for him in heaven. This is completely true, and I know he is there with them now. I was just hoping that they realized that they better be patient for a couple hours after his time, because I guarantee that somewhere on his way, he stopped to get ready.  And when Richard got ready, it was quite an ordeal, and anyone that knows him well knows that you had to give him a good two hours.  I am pretty sure that I spent half of my high school life waiting on Richard to get ready.

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The other thing that drove me crazy was that Richard was an absolute ladies man. When our friends were trading baseball cards or playing his Nintendo in 6th grade, Richard was talking about his 8th grade girlfriends. From then on, it didn’t matter if the girls were our age, younger, older, or taller, which was typically the case for him, girls always migrated to him. It was like the show “How I met your mother.” I was the guy that kept trying to figure out a way to talk to girls, and Richard was like Barney in the show.  He would say a couple words and they would be all about him. Some people would say this was jealousy on my part, and those people would be right. I did finally get extremely lucky and marry a great woman, and Richard was there as one of my top fans.

There are countless stories I remember vividly about growing up with Richard. The time in middle school where we stuck an egg in the exhaust pipe of a van across the street from the Bagnals, because we  thought it was funny. As soon as the egg went in, we both began to freak out and try to get the egg back out. That whole night, we stayed up in the twin beds in his room, worried that whenever the owner turned the van on that the van would explode.

We both entered high school as five foot and 100 pound scrawny kids, with matching nineties mullets. Our soccer shirts on the Reynolds soccer team that freshmen year went all the way down to our wrists, and they were short-sleeved. We thought we were a lot cooler than we really were like when Richard picked me up from an exam on his mo-ped. We actually drove it through the parking lots, tried to go down the steep hill towards the children’s home and eventually wrecked the bike in some wet leaves.

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The next story, I got cleared from Mara, but I still want to apologize to my mom and Vana.  The statue of limitation is way passed though, and I blame it on peer pressure.  On a weekday night of our sophomore year, when I am pretty sure our parents both thought we were at Young Life, but we decided it was time to go on an adventure to steal our first street sign.  There are a couple key factors we should have followed when stealing this sign, mainly to be quick and not draw attention to ourselves.  For some reason we decided to steal a Club Park Rd. sign, which just so happened to be right under a bright street light with several houses right near it. This was also when they had just made the street signs bigger, higher, and more secure. We parked Richard’s Explorer down the street.  Since we were so short, we had serious trouble getting up to the top of the street signs. We began to either boost each other up, or shimmy up the pole to get up so we could hang on.  Another problem was that we didn’t weigh anything, so we were having problems getting it loose. We would take turns hanging and yanking on one side of the sign. Eventually, we figured out how to both get up there, and we were each on our own side pulling down on the sign with all of our might. After a good twenty minutes, the sign finally fell to the ground with us crashing down with it and with cut-up hands. We didn’t care, we were so excited that we finally got it down through our perserverance. As we sprinted to the car carrying that sign, we felt like we were carrying a Super Bowl trophy. The funny thing is that since we were out there for so long, there was really no point to sprint.  There were probably people inside their houses watching us, too hysterical at how horrible we were at getting that sign to worry about calling the police or coming out to yell at us.

I eventually outgrew Richard in height, but I always looked up to him. He was a giant in many ways. He had a giant heart and truly cared about me and all his friends.  The last texting conversation I had with him was on April 12, 2013. He wrote:

“I heard the stork delivered another into your arms. That is awesome brother! Please tell all of the folks hello and a big congratulations to Katie and McKinley, and Hudson I guess. I’m truly happy for y’all. I honestly love you all.”

My son, Hudson, never got to meet Richard. A lot of the stories I have to tell about Richard aren’t the type a dad tells his daughter, but they are great for a dad to tell his son. After I get done telling Hudson stories about Richard, I honestly believe that he is going to imagine Richard as a giant.

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If my children, Hudson and McKinley, can go through life with a heart like Richard’s, I will be a very proud father. I will always remember Richard as my best childhood friend, and just like all of you, I will never forget him. Richard, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for being such a great part of my life!

 

The Rence-aissance of Downtown Winston

A renaissance is a rebirth. In the early 1990’s, Downtown Winston-Salem was dead. The most famous renaissance was in Europe following the Middle Ages, from the fourteenth until the seventeenth centuries. What many people don’t know is that we had our own renaissance in Winston-Salem, but it was actually more of a Rence-aissance, because a lot of the revitalization of downtown was spearheaded by my dad, Rence Callahan.

In doing my blog interviews of Winston-Salemites that either have gone on to do great things outside of Winston, or that make a huge difference in town, it is incredible how many people describe the difference of Downtown Winston as they have grown older. I have noticed that same difference, but I have seen the change from the inside-out. I used to run from my West End house I grew up in to the Winston Tower and back frequently during my youth. Once you passed The West End Cafe, there really was not much the rest of the route along Fourth Street.

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My dad has no idea I am writing this, but it is something that is very important to me. I see a lot of new places named after downtown difference makers in the newly revitalized downtown, but to me Fourth Street should be called Rence’s Way. As early as the nineties, my dad had the dream of revitalizing downtown, when it was literally a ghost town. I remember overhearing discussions he had with my mom about how people essentially thought it was crazy-talk to put new things downtown. He did win several accolades through the years including one of The Business Journal’s most influential people in 2008, 2010, and 2012. He was selected by the Triad Business Leader magazine as a “Triad Mover and Shaker.” In 2009, he won the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen and Service Award (link to article and video of speech).

One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams, where the most famous line is, “if you build it, they will come.” In the early nineties, when my dad had the dream of turning Downtown Winston into a special place, the thinking was more, “if you revitalize it, nobody will come.” Everybody thought that restaurants needed to be on Stratford Road to succeed. There was no way bars could make it downtown, because it was too shady. There was no way a small movie theater or a movie festival could survive downtown. A sports stadium built downtown would never draw a crowd, because stadiums needed to be out University Road.

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Looking back at it now twenty years later, the naysayers were wrong. There are terrific restaurants from Trade Street all the way to Old Salem. The Winston-Salem Dash stadium is one of the nicest minor league ballparks in the country. There is a unique and trendy artist community downtown, and a thriving movie theater and film festival. The new residential buildings fill up as fast as ants moving to a dropped crumb. Downtown Winston is now a thriving community that all Winston-Salemites should be very proud of and if it wasn’t for the big push by my dad and others, it could still be that same ghost town it used to be. Imagine the traffic out Hanes Mall Boulevard if that was the case, but it is not due to all of the hard work that many people have put into the revitalization.

My dad grew up in a small coal-town, Point Marion, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, near the West Virginia border. Point Marion is smaller than the West End neighborhood I grew up in near downtown. He left in the late 1960’s to attend college at the University of Virginia. He had never even seen the campus before, when he stepped foot there in 1968. He married my mom in the early seventies, and they moved to North Carolina for my dad to attend architecture graduate school at UNC-Charlotte and my mom to attend graduate school at UNC-Greensboro for speech pathology.

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After they had my sister in Charlotte in 1976, they moved to Winston for my dad to begin work as an architect here at Hammill-Walter Associates. Eventually in 1988, he became a partner at his firm, Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce. The firm has had a lot of success, including winning the North Carolina “Firm of the Year” in 1998. You can see the firm’s work throughout downtown and the entire southeast (link to WRCP projects).

Luckily, my mom keeps articles that my family are featured in, so I have a strong database to look back at my dad’s vision for downtown. As far back as 1992, he wanted to make Fourth St. more pedestrian friendly.

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In 1997, my dad wrote a guest column in The Winston-Salem Journal about the downtown of Greenville, SC that they used as an example for the new downtown Winston plan, where he said, “the participants enjoyed being downtown on a Friday night along with hundreds if not thousands of Greenville families, walking along Main Street, listening to live music and selecting from any of 60 downtown restaurants.” I would say that less than twenty years later that is exactly what we have in Downtown Winston, thanks to the hard-work of a lot of determined Winston-Salemites.

In 1998, my dad told Triad Business News that “the (downtown) plan is not a series of steps that we will have to take to make downtown a wonderful place, but it establishes a strategy to keep things moving forward.” That same article showed just how desolate downtown was when the writer wrote, “when the day is done and Old Salem closes, (Downtown) Winston-Salem can seem done as well. Much of it is being deserted by 6 p.m.”

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In a 1998 article in The Business Journal, the writer described my dad as a “downtown dreamer.” Winston-Salem’s Mayor Allen Joines, who was then an assistant city manager said, “he brings a passion and a belief that a healthy city center is crucial to the overall vitality of the city itself.”  When talking about downtown in this article my dad said, “we can have dreams, they’re worth pursuing, and maybe this is one worth pursuing.” One of my favorite quotes of any I have read from my father was in this article: “Even though the train is moving (my dad loves trains), it could come to a screeching halt and we’re still out in the wilderness. We’re getting close to the station, though, so I’m cautiously optimistic we’re going to be able to pull it off, and pull it off in time for me to enjoy it.” Little did my dad know those eighteen years ago, that Winston-Salem did pull it off, and I am sure there isn’t anybody that enjoys it more than him.

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I found out that my dad’s thesis in 1977 at UNC-C was about developing a NFL stadium in downtown Charlotte, sixteen years before they got a professional football team. In 2000, my dad  had a new vision for downtown, which I honestly believe was just ten years before its time. Major League Soccer was a fledgling professional league at that time, and my dad had the idea to bring a team to Winston. Some of my favorite quotes from my dad and about my dad come from an article in 2000 in The Business Journal: 

  • The writer wrote, “he speaks like a man who has spent the past decade working behind-the-scenes, through peaks and valleys, to spur on a downtown Winston-Salem’s renaissance.”
  • The writer wrote, “City centers are his hobby, and people who know him say they wouldn’t want anyone else spearheading the rehabilitation of Winston-Salem’s core.”
  • Jim Lambie said, “His heart and soul is to the downtown area.”
  • The writer wrote, “He thinks that a rejuvenated downtown- with restaurants, night clubs and retail shops- would make a perfect fit for a North Carolina team.”

Unfortunately, the Carolina Soccer Foundation wasn’t able to raise quite enough money for a stadium. Like I wrote earlier, I just think this plan was ahead of its time. This did nothing to stop my dad and several other’s dreams of revitalizing downtown.

Bizlife Magazine wrote an article about Walter Robbs in 2001, where my dad continued his foreshadowing of our vibrant downtown. “Downtown Winston-Salem is going to become not just the center of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, or maybe even of the Piedmont Triad. Winston-Salem is going to become a true destination,” my dad said in the article. The writer described him as being “so impassioned you can almost feel the electricity in his words.”

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I honestly believe I get the same passion I have as soon as I step on the soccer field at Salem College that my dad had when talking about downtown in the early 2000’s. Some people don’t like my passion, particularly some referees and a couple other coaches, just like some people might not have liked my dad’s passion for downtown at that time. But he kept his dream alive. The firm moved to the Chatham Building on Fourth St. before many businesses were downtown. Then they designed and moved into Trader’s Row on Trade St., which was the first LEED Certified project ever in Forsyth County.

Throughout the last fifteen years, my dad, Walter Robbs, The Downtown Partnership, and many others carried on the dream to revitalize downtown and it is now a mecca for arts and entertainment in the region.

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My sister owns a business (a/perture) downtown now, and her family moved to Fourth St. My parents plan to move from the West End to downtown soon as well. All three of my dad’s grandchildren go to school downtown. I work downtown and the entire Callahan Clan are truly Downtown Winston people.

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I can’t take my daily trips through downtown without thinking how proud I am of my dad for all of his hard work. In the early 1990’s, people did not believe him when he would tell them he wanted to make downtown a special place, but my family did, because we saw his passion everyday when he was at home away from the naysayers.

I will finish this blog with another quote of my dad’s from 2001, “The opportunity to create a building, to leave a legacy that will last much longer than you can last gives you the inspiration.” Dad, your inspiration has helped pave a path for a downtown for all Winston-Salemites to be proud of and to enjoy daily. The legacy of Downtown Winston should always hold the Rence-aissance close to its heart.

 

My Flight From Hell

A boy landed on a flight in Sweden sitting in the airplane restroom, scared out of his mind, and it was all my fault!

I’m sure that if a psychiatrist diagnosed me writing my first novel, Collisions, about a plane crash, it would definitely have something to do with my fear of flying. When I get on a plane, the entire flight feels like I am stuck in the garbage compactor with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca in Star Wars-Episode IV. The walls of the plane feel like they are slowly closing in on me the entire flight.

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No matter how long the flight is, I literally like to stare at the headrest in front of my seat for the entire time. I don’t like to talk to anybody, eat the food, or watch the movies on the flight. Before I left to study abroad in Glasgow, Scotland in 2001, my doctor prescribed me with Xanax to take on all of my flights. I still stared at the headrest in front of me, but now I could also get some shuteye on flights. I had to double up on my Xanax intake on that flight to Scotland, since it was literally one week after 9/11. I slept the entire flight, and even fell asleep in the taxi from the airport to the University of Glasgow.

In 2009, I was selected to coach an under-19 women’s soccer team representing players from all over the United States at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Gothia Cup is one of the largest youth tournaments of any sport in the world. There were boys and girls teams with our group from the ages of nine to nineteen.

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I did okay on the flight from Raleigh to New York. About forty-five minutes before the nine hour flight to Sweden was set to leave, my nerves were in high gear. I went into the bathroom to take my dosage of Xanax, ready to be knocked out before the flight even left the runway.

Unfortunately, when I walked out of the bathroom, the director of our group was looking for me. He had a nine-year-old little boy, who just happened to be the youngest member of our group. He told me that the boy was scared to fly and had never left his parents before, and he was going to sit by me on the flight. First off, why in the world would you send your child halfway across the world for a week long soccer tournament, if he has never been away from you in his life?

As I walked past some of the other coaches in the group who finagled their way to get first class seats, the drowsiness of the medicine began to kick in. I sat down with the young boy beside me, and drifted off right after the buckle your seat belt sign lit up. In what couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, I was startled awake by a tug on my shirt. With tears in his eyes, the boy told me he wanted to get them to turn the plane back around. In my woozy state, I tried to calm him down. Once we were done talking, I popped another half Xanax to knock myself back out.

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After dozing back off, I felt another tug and the boy needed me to walk him to the bathroom. We got back and I realized that there was no way I was sleeping, so I went back to staring at the headrest for the rest of the flight or that was the plan. After several more tugs on the shirt to see the boy crying, the flight attendants brought the food trays around. I didn’t eat anything, but the boy downed everything on his plate.

After the trays were removed, I popped another Xanax (these were the smallest dosage pills) and was soon back asleep. This time I was awoken with vomit to the shoes. The boy became airsick and threw up all over the floor and my shoes. This sent me into major freak out mode, and at this point I was hoping they would turn the plane around or land it on some unknown island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The mess was all cleaned up, but the boy was nowhere close to being done throwing up. He must have eaten a man’s worth of food that whole week, because is was non-stop. For the next five hours I dealt with him getting sick, wanting to go to the bathroom, or crying.

With about one hour left in the flight, I was faced with a personal ultimatum. Since the meds were wearing off, I could suffer through the last hour, or take one more pill and be drowsy when we arrived. I popped the pill in my mouth, and became super tired this time. With thirty minutes left in the flight, the boy wanted to go back to the bathroom because he had to go number two. I told him he could handle it himself this time, and I passed out as soon as I saw him enter the bathroom.

This time I was awoken by that jolt you feel when the plane wheels are positioned for landing. I noticed that the seat belt signs were on and that we were very close to landing. I looked to the seat to my left, and there was no sign of the little boy. I was also extremely groggy, but I tried to push the call attendant button and nobody came to check what I needed, since the flight attendants were already buckled in for landing. I honestly thought about getting up and going to see where the kid was, but I figured maybe he just found another seat or the attendants had him.

The plane landed in Sweden with a rather rocky landing. When the unbuckle seat belt sign came off, I stood up to see a rather perturbed looking older blonde woman escorting the boy back to his seat. The kid literally looked like he had just seen a ghost. To give him some credit, I am not really sure how anyone would handle landing in the restroom of a plane.

The flight attendant gave me a death glare and asked why I let him sit in the bathroom for the landing. I had no response, because well, how in the heck do you respond to that question? I did see the boy throughout our time in Sweden and he didn’t seem to hold any ill-will towards me, even though I am sure he still remembers landing on a plane in the bathroom. Needless to say, I didn’t have any kids to look after on the return flight, and rested peacefully for the entire trip.

My First Gatorade Bath-Why I Coach

Gatorade baths to coaches are like walking into a surprise birthday party or getting your first kiss. They are a very American way of celebrating an important victory in sports. Chicago Bears Hall of Fame Coach Mike Ditka was the first known coach to get doused with the sports drink in 1984. Gatorade dumps are sacred moments that some coaches never get to experience. I was lucky enough to experience my first orange bath in just my second month of coaching.

Like many college graduates of the past couple decades, I really had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. I had just finished with a journalism degree from West Virginia University and didn’t really want to use it at the age of twenty-two. In spring of 2002, I moved back to Winston-Salem and I was living in an apartment with my friend, Graham Lyles, near Hanes Park.

We slept in late, frequented bars like Black Bear and The West End Opera House, and we held off becoming adults as long as possible. Graham was interning at Baptist Hospital and applying to medical schools and had his life figured out. I had no idea what I wanted to do with mine. I had my first two jobs fall in my lap and they both would alter my course.

I was living my lazy life that summer and I ran into Coach James Williams, my high school soccer coach at R.J. Reynolds. He told me that he had a friend that was just hired as the varsity boys soccer coach at North Forsyth High School. He was looking for an assistant coach and junior varsity head coach. I agreed at the time just so I could say that I had a job, even though it was just part-time.

I had to get more work so I substitute taught in the school system. After two weeks, I subbed in an autistic classroom at Jefferson Elementary, and luckily for me, a position opened and I was hired in that classroom the following week. Coaching high school requires you to have a job that gives you afternoons off, so this job at Jefferson was perfect. Working with autistic kids for two years was something I won’t ever forget, but that is for a different blog.

North Forsyth was a decent program when I was in school four years earlier. The dynamic of the team and the diversity of the school had changed substantially in just four years. The school had a much larger Hispanic population and the soccer program went significantly downhill due to a decrease in talent-level, but more importantly not being able to keep good coaches around.

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Being twenty-two, I really didn’t research the coaching position like I would research a job nowadays. North Forsyth’s J.V. Boy’s Program didn’t win a game the year before. They not only didn’t win a game, they didn’t score a goal!

My first day was the first day of tryouts. The j.v. pool was eighty percent Hispanic, ten percent country, and ten percent from the travel team crowd that I grew up playing with. There were Hispanic players around when I grew up, but they wouldn’t try out for their high school teams for various reasons.

I was twenty-two at the time, but I looked sixteen at most. I could have easily been one of the players in the eyes of the parents and other players walking down to tryouts that first day. Tryouts were easy since the varsity coach put them together. All I had to do was evaluate the players I wanted, which was also simple since there weren’t enough for me to make any cuts. I was going to get what the varsity coach didn’t want.

There were two freshmen wearing Twin City Soccer Club shirts that I really wanted on my team. They had grown up playing in the same club I played on and you could tell. They were as talented as the juniors and seniors out there. It was all up to the varsity coach. Did he want to keep 18 or 20 players and give me 16 or 18. He decided to take the two players, and put me on the back-foot of my first coaching job right off the bat.

My goalie was on the larger side of the scale. Some of the Hispanic players didn’t speak English, so I had to designate two of the players as team translators. The Hispanic players were my most technical players, but they also didn’t have any history of playing for an organized team. I had a couple players that had played organized club soccer and a couple players that had just a couple years of recreational soccer under their belts.

It was a rag-tag group of players, with a young coach with absolutely no coaching experience playing in a conference with schools with much more soccer history and soccer talent. The cream of the crop in the conference that year and many years before was Mt. Tabor High School. Their varsity team ended up winning the North Carolina 4A State Championships that year.

I knew a lot about Mt. Tabor, because they were my high school’s rivals for four years. Unfortunately for the first three years, it wasn’t much of a rivalry. Thanks to a long goal by my good friend, Daniel Eggers, we beat them just one time in at least eight attempts my freshmen through junior year. My senior year, they not only were more talented than my team at Reynolds, they were also more talented than most teams in the country. They were ranked in national high school polls and first in the state. My senior year, I learned that you could beat the talent of Mt. Tabor with heart and brains. We ended up beating them twice that year and winning the conference title for Reynolds for the first time in over a decade.

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Their junior varsity team was more talented than the varsity team at North Forsyth. We did okay the first couple of weeks of games. We actually had a couple ties and had scored some goals. Then we had to play Mt. Tabor. The game was at home and there was a large crowd filtering in to the stadium in anticipation of the varsity game with the top team in the state.

They scored two goals in the first five minutes, and that was all she wrote. They were up by six at half, and cruised to an 8-0 win on our field. An 8-0 soccer win is equivalent to a 56-0 football win or forty to fifty point blowout in basketball. When a team starts to play keep away from your team, it is very embarrassing as both a player and a coach. Mt. Tabor played keep away from us for the majority of the second half. In losses, coaches look for bright spots to move forward. There were no bright spots except for when the referee finally blew the whistle to end the game.

The week didn’t get much better as we went to powerhouse Greensboro Page and they beat us 10-1. Conference play didn’t get off to a great start to say the least. Over the past twelve years, I have learned a lot about coaching soccer technically and tactically. No matter how much I learn about systems of play or the newest moves, it still won’t compare to as much as I learned that following week about coaching from the heart.

The week before we traveled to Mt. Tabor I made practices more fun. We still had our fair share of fitness, which is still important to me as a coach, but for the most part the team left every practice happy even though we were coming off two atrocious games.

During that first slaughter with Mt. Tabor, I also learned how important it is to really get to know your competition. I paid close attention to Mt. Tabor’s strengths and weaknesses. In their 8-0 win, there were a lot more strengths on my list than weaknesses.

We got off to a good start to the re-match week with our first win of the past two seasons and it was a conference win. There was a spark in the team that week that I didn’t see before and they actually believed they could win at Mt. Tabor. Though I didn’t have the same confidence, I did feel that we would have a better showing that the 8-0 drubbing from the first game.

Just like most j.v. games in high school sports, nobody really shows up until the second half to get ready for the varsity game. This played into my plan. My players didn’t have much to be nervous over since nobody was there, and the Tabor players didn’t really have anybody to impress on their side.

In sports it is hard to get psyched up for a re-match after you killed the team the first time around. I knew that the first ten minutes of the eighty minute game would set the tone for both teams. I constantly repeated to the team that week to not let them score the first ten minutes. If we held them the first ten, we would have a shot for the whole game. We not only held them off the scoreboard, we knocked in a goal. The first game we didn’t have a shot all game, and the second game we already had a goal in the first ten minutes.

We woke a sleeping giant after that goal and they pounded on us the rest of the half. My large goalie was diving left and right and playing out of his mind. He was “in the zone.” I also had a budding star emerge. He was by far my smallest player, probably no taller than five feet and around a hundred pounds. He was very similar to my size when I was a freshman at Reynolds. He also spoke very little English. That day at Mt. Tabor, he came out of his shell. He was dribbling circles around the much larger and stronger Tabor players, who were wearing the navy and white striped hand-me-down jerseys from the varsity team that I played against when I was in high school. He provided the first assist on a beautiful pass and he was our only real offensive force in the first half.

At half time, the team was as excited as a team could be and I had to tamper down their excitement a little bit. The stands were starting to fill for the varsity game and I knew that it would be hard to repeat our first half performance, especially with Tabor now having a reason to play. Once again, I emphasized the first ten minutes of the half. “Hold them again and we can maybe beat them,” I repeated over and over.

Miraculously, once again against the run of play, we scored and shockingly took a 2-0 advantage. They threw the kitchen sink at us for the final thirty minutes. As each minute passed, I pushed my team further and further into our defensive end and made as many time-killing substitutions as I possibly could. With about ten minutes left our line of defense cracked and Mt. Tabor struck a goal to cut our lead to 2-1.

Fortunately, they never really had any good chances over the last ten minutes.Our parents were standing and cheering and our varsity team bypassed their warm-ups to cheer us on for the final minutes. With a final couple clearances of our defensive area, we held Tabor off and the ref blew that final whistle, which is music to a coach’s ears when he or she is winning a close game.

My team stormed the field, which is very rare at that level, and to my surprise I had the chilling relief of the Gatorade bucket dumped on my back by a couple players on the bench. Freezing ice being poured over your head on an already chilly day might not sound like fun, but it is one of the greatest thrills a person can experience. I spent the next ten minutes shaking hands of parents and even the varsity coaches from Tabor. That whole time I could hear and see our old, white activity bus shaking with cheers and jumps while I was more than fifty yards away. The ten-minute ride back to North was filled with songs like “We Are the Champions,” and even some Spanish songs where I had no idea what they were singing.

The game also didn’t end up being a fluke. Later in the season, we played Page at home and after their 10-1 slaughter at their place, we played them to a 2-2 tie at home. We finished the season with five wins and three ties from a team that didn’t win the year before. Though the Mt. Tabor win was just a junior varsity level win, it meant much more to me. It was the moment that I found out what I wanted to do with my life.

 

Men Aren’t Strong Enough to be Teachers

Thank you to all female teachers. The male gender should thank you daily for taking care of one of the most important professions to ever exist. Thank you to women like my mom, who spent over thirty-years making the world a better place for children of all races and backgrounds.

As a former male teacher, I can tell you that men are not as mentally strong as women. We might be faster on the playing fields and stronger in the gyms, but there is a good reason that around seventy-five percent of public school teachers are women. Men can’t handle the job.

LeBron James might be the best basketball player in the world, but let’s see how he does teaching summer school in the off-season. Bill Gates might be one of the smartest men of this generation, but let’s see how he handles a classroom full of third-graders. Instead of presidential contenders spending millions of dollars this year politicking around the country, just put them in a kindergarten classroom and see who can handle it the longest. The open-mindedness and life inexperience of a kindergarten classroom would fit for a perfect poll of the candidates.

Some people actually believe that teachers are paid too much. People say teachers are just glorified babysitters that get way too much vacation time. Presidential candidate, Chris Christie of New Jersey, went as far as saying that “teachers are paid too much, and bankrupting the system.” Christie actually cut New Jersey subsidized meals. Looking at his size, Christie probably just wanted more food for himself.

There is a reason that the percentage of male principals is much higher than the percentage of male teachers. Men as a species can’t handle a classroom. We can’t handle getting up early and always having a smile on our face. We can’t handle making lesson plans everyday. We can’t handle countless phone calls, emails,  and drop-ins from worried parents. We can’t handle disciplining twenty children daily. We can’t handle a kid throwing up on our shoes or needing a shoulder to cry on.

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This is not to say that there aren’t great male teachers and there aren’t bad female teachers. There are plenty of both kinds. I don’t think I was an awful teacher in my five years in the school system. I just wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of my female co-workers. I loved working with the kids! I hated having to set up meetings with parents. I strongly disliked getting up early and having to type up lesson plan after lesson plan. I hated all of the meetings.

I wasn’t strong enough to teach for a lifetime. I honestly think that the male genes, for the most part, just can’t handle teaching. There is something implanted in the brain of a female when they are born that gives them the intelligence, creativity, sustenance, and patience to teach for thirty-plus years that men don’t have.

It is a complete mockery that teachers in my home state of North Carolina average a salary of just over $47, 000, which ranks 42nd in the United States. This has been a problem for both Democrat and Republican governors in North Carolina, and it is blasphemy. It needs to be fixed. Teachers deserve more compensation for their work in our state. If men made up seventy-five percent of teachers, I can guarantee that teachers would average a much higher salary.

In a recent study, among the study’s findings, North Carolina ranked 51st in ten-year change in teacher salary; 48th in public school funding per student; 47th in median annual salary;  and 43rd in teachers’ wage disparity. We finished in dead last in a category. This is unacceptable! Our teachers deserve more.

When I was student teaching, I was very lucky that my great teaching mentor, Mary Ann Davis, placed me with Susan Reeve. Susan was a second grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Winston-Salem. Her husband is a strength coach at Wake Forest University, but he gets all of the strength he needs at home from his wife. Not only was she a highly entertaining teacher to learn under, she also is a breast cancer survivor. Women like Susan are as tough as any football or basketball player and they are just as good as a role model to our youth.

It is time teachers are appreciated the way they should be. It is time that men realize that we don’t teach by choice, but that we don’t teach because we aren’t strong enough to do it.