|Herbert E. Armstrong|
I could spend many pages backing up that statement, but I’ll simply say that my father was an amazing analyst of every sport he coached. He could decipher, articulate, and communicate the mechanics of every individual move or team play in a way that enabled players and teams with mediocre talent to hold their own against opponents with much greater talent and size. He amassed an amazing record over the years, and his exploits were legendary in the state of Maryland, where he was revered by his players and respected by everyone in the athletic world.
I wonder what my father, if he were alive, would think about the coaching profession today and how it has changed. He would not believe the salaries of coaches, which like those of professional athletes have skyrocketed. Many “big time” college coaches are being signed to seven-figure contracts. Some football coaches are paid more than the presidents of their universities!
Television can be credited or blamed, depending upon your point of view, for this development, because it has made celebrities of coaches. To be sure, television has impacted all aspects of every sport, usually but not always for the best, and in my view its effect on coaches’ and players’ salaries is not one of the better ways. Given the alarming increase in poverty in our nation and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, I think the exorbitant salaries of some professional athletes and coaches are morally outrageous.
That’s not to denigrate the importance of athletics or the coaching profession. Coaches, especially high school coaches, have a tremendous influence on the character development of the young people under their charge. Some of the most valuable lessons of life, like the importance of teamwork, self-discipline, hard work, loyalty, and sacrifice, and how to deal with defeat and success, are learned on the athletic fields. My values were shaped there more than in the classroom.
My father recognized that and took it seriously. He attended a football coaches conference one year at which one of the speakers jokingly made reference to what he called “a character building season,” meaning a losing season. The remark and the laughter that followed it infuriated my Dad, who rose to challenge the speaker with the comment that every season should be a character building year! His timely objection was greeted with immense applause.
That’s who he was —a man of integrity, a man of character, for whom honesty was a quality to be expected not commended. He believed character building should be every coach’s foremost responsibility. He himself taught by word and by example. I can imagine how upset he would be by the behavior of some coaches today, the chair-throwing Bobby Knights and the abusive Mike Rices of this world, who for many folks give the coaching profession a bad name.
Today it’s all about winning. My Dad wanted to win as much as anyone. And he was a winner. But he never sacrificed his values on the altar of personal acclaim, or let expediency compromise his principles. He was humble and modest, fair in his reprimands and generous with his praise. He was always eager to give others the credit they deserved, especially his colleagues. That’s why his fellow coaches and players admired and respected him so much, and why they gave their all for him.