Thank You Coach
My high school coach was Tennessee Hall of Fame Coach Bryant McDaniel of Clarksville High, the Dean of Cross Country in Tennessee, the winner of seven state championships.
In those days only the top five runners on each team wore the school shirt and mattered in the outcome of the race. I tried so hard to wear that shirt but never did.
Coach Bryant McDaniel was an English teacher. He measured tobacco land in the summer. He claimed forever after that my mother had saved his life.
It was very hot that summer, my sixteenth year, 1964. Coach McDaniel had shown up at the farmhouse with heat exhaustion. My mother had placed him in the shade and cooled him down with wet towels. He recovered slowly and when he was feeling better he asked me to help him measure the tobacco.
The acreage had to be recorded for the government in those days. I carried one end of the tape and we had a great day measuring and talking.
He spoke to me of the cross country team and suggested I should join. My father had passed away a couple of years earlier. I guess there was just something about that kind man that made me really remember him.
I know now that my mother could not afford any school activity. We had zero money and she worked in a real sweatshop, sewing.
A kid never thinks about how his mother managed to provide something she could not afford. Later an adult remembers.
The coach didn’t just care about the top runners. He knew the also rans, like me, had to be there, to push the ones in front and to inspire others. I didn’t wear the shirt that counted in the race. Coach knew I mattered even though I didn’t.
I remember when he was urging me up those hills, “Don’t quit, son, don’t give up. You must finish!”
“Why does he care about me, I’m not wearing the shirt that counts.”
I couldn’t breathe. I really could not breathe on those hills. My legs felt like rubber and every fiber said QUIT. QUIT
I was so far in the back of the pack. I mattered not. I couldn’t seem to keep moving but this coach, this man, this wonderful man cared enough to make me rise up when it was hardest, when it seemed to not matter, when it mattered the most.
It was important to him that I get the point even if it took this long. It did matter, you see, and I mattered. My effort inspired my friends to join the team. Two of them, Mike Sykes and Donnie Huff wore the shirt. WE won two state championships, the coach would win seven. I didn’t wear the shirt but I won it too. Coach. I got the point. I still brag.
Coach made us memorize poems that he made his students read. He is remembered as much for this poem as Anonymous. Thank you coach!
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit.
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out:
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems so far:
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
This Thank you Coach article by David Michael Jackson
Coach Don’t quit poem by Anonymous