SIDELINE OBSERVATIONS: Coaches make a difference

Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM.

I attended a reunion of former Gulf Breeze High School athletes last Saturday.

Anyone who's attended one of these things knows it's an event when a bunch of 40- or 50-something guys get together and lie about how good — or in my case how bad — they we were when most of us had more hair and less belly.

One of these events' highlights is seeing former coaches. The men who coached me when I was a teen are now in their 60s and 70s. Sadly, two of those coaches, Mike Walker and Jerry Henderson, who affected so many lives, are no longer with us.

Only two former Gulf Breeze coaches made the reunion this year. Sylvan Ladner, who started as an assistant coach and math teacher at Gulf Breeze in the fall of 1974 and retired as GBHS principal a few years ago, was there. And Buddy Smith, the second baseball coach in GBHS history and an assistant football coach, also attended.

Almost 40 years after we played our last games for these coaches, we still rushed to see them and, in some small way, receive a word of approval.

There were no threats of extra wind sprints or some other discipline, but inside every man, no matter how old, is an insecure teenage boy who needs his coaches' affirmation.

My dad had the greatest influence of any male role model in my life. Next to Dad, the biggest influence on me as a youth was a youth pastor, followed by my Gulf Breeze High School coaches.

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