“It’ll be OK, coach.”
That’ how I would sum up the experience I just had sharing the trip with the CNU trip to Belton, Texas, where the Captains were defeated 51-19. Aside from the score, I took away many positive things from this trip.
I recently wrote in The Daily Press for this game that there would be no southern hospitality in Belton, Texas. I was wrong about that. Everyone in Texas, no matter what town, was extremely hospitable. When we finally arrived at the Killeen/Ft Hood airport, hours later than planned, a representative from the hotel was waiting for us. She would provide the escort to the hotel. At the hotel, a bevy of staff members greeted me with smiles, balloons in CNU colors, and quickly pointed me to my room key and elevators. Exiting the elevator on the third floor, more staff members greeted and directed me to my room where I found a nice basket of goodies waiting, adorned in CNU blue ribbon.
Later that evening, the few donors that contributed to the athletic department in order to hitch a ride with the team were taken to dinner by two CNU Athletic Department employees, Heather Moody, Athletic Director of Development and Jon Waters, Associate Director of Athletics and Assistant Men’s basketball coach. They took us to a Texas steakhouse. You can’t go to Texas without finding a good steak and having Texas style Bar-B-Q. Heather found a good place in Temple. Now, I’ve always heard the saying that, â€œEverything’s big in Texas.â€ I can prove it. At this restaurant, on the children’s menu, I saw an entrÃ©e for a 12 oz. Rib Eye!!!
Saturday morning I was able to eat brunch with the team. After picking out a table at random, I found myself eating with four CNU coaches, Justin Long, whom I mentioned in my previous blog, Justin Wood, former All-American linebacker and Aztec Bowl player, Curfew Speight, and Jonathon Dean. They treated me like I was one of them. I sort of was. Coaches Speight, Dean, Woods, and I all went to the same high school. Go Bruins!
As time progressed, many times I encountered CNU players and coaches. Whether it was at breakfast, in the elevator, or after the game, I was always addressed as â€œSirâ€. It reminded me about all the positive influences sports has on people such as respect, teamwork, discipline, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. Being addressed as sir was something minor, yet extremely impressive. I cannot put into words the experience of being able to be that close to the inner workings of a college football team as they travel and prepare for a game on the road.
The CNU players impressed me beyond words. I kept in mind that these players are not here on scholarship. They love the game. They love being a part of a team. They love and appreciate what football has to offer them. When we finally landed in Newport News at about 4 a.m. and we were leaving the plane, a player came up to me and thanked me for coming to â€œwatch us play.â€ I’m not even sure who that player was (no jersey with a number), but it was nice to hear. I could tell he meant it. He appreciated someone coming to watch him play.
Which brings me full circle to my opening comment. After the game, while waiting for the players to shower, Coach Kelchner came up to each donor and personally apologized for the outcome of the game and took total responsibility, simply saying, â€œit was my fault.â€ I quickly responded with, â€œIt’s OK coach. We have next week.â€ I don’t think he heard me. He was focused somewhere deep in his thoughts.
For the rest of the trip I watched Coach Kelchner as he interacted with others. He always seemed deep in thought, somewhere else. I started to think about this. A head coach has to figure out, after games like this, how to approach his coaches and players in the week ahead. As a former youth baseball and basketball coach, I realize you have to approach everyone differently. Some you have to get in their face, some you have to push hard in practice, some need to see their mistakes and learn from them, some just need a pat on the back and be told, â€œIt’ll be OK.â€
That’s what I want Coach Kelchner to hear. Who tells him that? Who consoles the head coach? Who points out the mistakes? Who gets in his face? Who just says, â€œIt’ll be OK, coachâ€?
It’ll be OK, coach!