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|Lifelong lessons learned from coaches|
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was first published in The Ouachita Citizen on July 5, 2007.
One night this week while I was at my computer, thoughts of my former coaches came across the screens of my mind. I thought about what I had learned from each of them. Not only from those who had coached me, but also, from those that I coached under as an assistant.
Van Leigh was the first coach that I served under. I was his assistant at Lee Jr. High. If you did not believe in discipline, you could not coach with Van Leigh. He prepared his players for their high school years. Coach Leigh was extremely loyal to Neville High School.
I had accepted an assistant coaching job to coach under Tommy Bankston at Winnfield Sr. High School, but while my wife, Donna, and I were actually moving to Winnfield, Bankston accepted the principal's job. I was disappointed when I found out, but after having a good talk with Bankston, Donna and I decided to stick with our decision.
Bankston had played football for my father at Louisiana College in Pineville. Those who had played for my father always returned the favor. They in turn taught me. I learned so much about leadership from Tommy Bankston. I don't know if I have ever seen such a dynamic leader. He was definitely the commander-in-chief. Bankston was fearless with his decisions and I saw him make some tough decisions and he never wavered when the public did not agree.
I incorporated the three-step passing game that Bankston had used when he coached with my own passing game. I would use this system the remainder of my coaching career. I would estimate that this three-step system probably was responsible for 7,000 or 8,000 yards in passing along with 60 or 70 touchdowns in a six -year period. Jerry Wheeler, who was the quarterback when I was the head coach at West Monroe, threw for well over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1978.
I coached under Jim Bruning at Natchitoches-Central in Natchitoches. Bruning had his own style, but there was never any doubt that he was in charge. He would never allow any of his assistants to be the recipients of any unkind criticism.
After having coached with Bruning for one year, he asked me if I wanted to take over as the head coach for the coming year. I wanted to be a head coach, but I knew that Bruning had a tremendous rapport with the black community and I had not been there long enough to build this kind of trust. I was satisfied to serve as Bruning's assistant until my youngest brother Andy graduated. I was not aware of how much that I had learned from Bruning until I left to take the head coaching job at Farmerville.
When I was at Farmerville, I learned what a great advantage it was to have a big principal. My principal, Malvin Sistrunk, was big. He had fists about the size of a horse's hoof. One day Sistrunk called me from his office to tell me to stay close because he had a parent that was coming up to the school to whip him, and he may need my help. After I hung up the phone, I realized that if Sistrunk needed my help, that this parent must be a giant. I thought about leaving. I figured that anything that he could not handle, I did not even need to be around. Sistrunk was playing a joke on me. But it was an asset to have a big principal, in case I ever needed help.
I would have to write a book to share what I learned from coaches Chick Childress, Charlie Brown, Bill Ruple, Jim Coates and Coach Devone Payne, my father. Maybe one day I will do just that. I was extremely fortunate to have played under outstanding coaches and men like these.
All of these men had a tremendous impact upon my life.
Robert Charles Payne is an inspirational writer who lives in West Monroe. He can be contacted by e-mailing email@example.com.