This is the story of a man who happens to be a football coach. I’m a colleague of this football coach. I’ve never played a down for Coach Woodard, but the respect I have for this man will never allow me to call him by his given name of Brian. He will always be Coach Woodard to me and many others.
Unfortunately, we live in a time now where titles are often scoffed at more than they are revered. I’m 31 years old and there are still former teachers and coaches I could never call by their first name.
The reason I wanted to tell Coach Woodard’s story is because his title of football coach is exactly that, a title. It doesn’t define the man. It’s an avenue that he uses to teach these young men far more about life and how to grow into men, than he does about teaching them to “attack the gap” or “pick up the blitz.”
I recently asked him, “other than your love for football, why do you coach?” His answer simply solidified what I’ve observed about him from the moment I moved here.
Coach says, “it is very rewarding to have the chance to watch players invest themselves in something like football (something much larger than themselves) and watch them grow as young men throughout that process.”
He continued, “I also enjoy the friendships and camaraderie of the guys that I coach with. Spending time with those guys in the coaches’ office working, laughing and sometimes crying will always be so special to me.”
Notice the times he mentioned football, game-planning, and strategy was just a modest piece of his overall focus.
Don’t get me wrong…
This man loves to win. These boys love to win. Winning football games is very much a focus. However, teaching these young men how to become men is far more lasting of a reward than what the final score was on a given Friday night.
Mentorship is a huge piece of developing young men.
I asked him to tell me one his favorite moments of mentorship with a current or former player. Like most men who develop leaders he couldn’t pinpoint just one.
He said, “I don’t think there is one instance that stands out more than another. However, what I think I appreciate so much are the conversations and texts that I have with former players. Invariably the words, “you were right coach” always seem to come up. Listening to them repeat many of the same lessons I’ve taught them brings a smile to my face because you realize that they are starting to grasp it and making that transition to becoming a man.”
My final question to Coach Woodard was, “I’m constantly told your message is bigger than football, it’s about how to become men and how to be successful with life. What mentors or guidance have you received in your life that have instilled such a powerful message in you?”
His response was pregnant with adoration for his parents, coaches, and mentors.
He said, “I watched my parents get up each morning, put on their work clothes and head into the GM plant for many years. The impact that had on my life was tremendous. I never had to look very far to find people that weren’t afraid of working hard for a living.
From a football perspective I had so much respect for my Dad when he coached me because he focused so hard on his players having good fundamentals and not worrying about the score as much as if we were getting better.
In High School I was lucky to have a chance to be coached by Jim Kaiser & Joe Schott. They taught me the power of what can happen if enough people truly care, which has been the motto of this program since 2006, “If Enough People Care Anything Is Possible.”
I was hired here (Plainfield High School) by Chuck Schwanekamp that was also very special. Chuck taught me how to treat people and how to run a program. His discussions of having a “north star” in coaching still resonate with me. Chuck always told me that if we are going to err, we’re going to do it on the side of our players. I learned so many good lessons from Coach Schwanekamp.
Currently the guys I work with…iron sharpens iron and I am humbled to get the chance to work with so many smart and caring coaches at Plainfield High School.
You see, being a former student-athlete it was hard in the moment to understand the lessons my coaches were teaching me. When I grew up and “life happened,” I found discernment in the lessons my father, mentors, and coaches taught me. It’s in those moments that playing time, records, and stats didn’t matter. The lessons and investments those men poured into my life is what mattered.
Why is the presence of men so vital to our communities? Think about when you see men heavily involved in the lives of their kids, students, or athletes. There is an undefinable beauty to it isn’t there?
The fact you can’t define the impact it has on human flourishing, signifies it’s incredible importance…
My dad was a #presentman in my life and the life of my beautiful sister. He was my dad first, then my coach, then when the time was right we became best friends. There was a very healthy progression.
Not everyone had the upbringing I was blessed to have. I understand that reality, but we can all choose to invest in all types of kids. Nobody’s current situation qualifies or disqualifies them to have someone invest in their life.
Even though I was blessed with someone like my dad I still needed these men in my life:
Grandpa Joe (R.I.P.), Grandpa Don, Uncle Randy, Coach Fabbro, Coach Nowotny, Coach Simpson, Coach Schimm, Mr. Franko, Mr. Curell, Pastor Jeremy, Pastor Rob, Mark Holcomb, Derek Clay, John Endsley, Capt. McKee, Pastor Brad Long, Pastor Chad Parks, Pastor Dave Alderson, Pastor Matt Robinson, and the list could go on forever.
All of these men poured themselves into my life. The good, the bad, and it was all vital because they only gave me what they could…themselves.
Dan Dakich the other day on the radio said something I will never forget. He was talking about the passing of his father and in reference to that he said on air, “I feel it in my guidance.”
This is a man who is 54 years old. He was speaking of his current guidance. What a beautiful tribute to someone who clearly meant so much to Coach Dakich.
You see, my dad will always be my dad. Those coaches, teachers, and mentors will always have an impact on my past, current, and future life. They chose to play the role in molding me. That didn’t stop with an end of the regular season, graduation, or me moving into adulthood.
So…Coach Woodard. Keep making men. The influence you’ve been blessed with is far more important than gutsy wins and tough losses. It’s people like you who literally are changing the world.
So thank you…and…Go Red Pride.