Coaches play crucial role

Published 12:38 am Sunday, December 30, 2007

So you’ve just entered high school and you play football.

A lot of challenges await you in the next four years.

From learning where your classrooms are to learning the football playbook; it is a whirlwind.

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You’ll bond with friends, teachers and administrators.

But for many young men, the strongest bond will come on the field or in the gymnasium.

High school coaches are in a position to teach the players not only about the game, but teach them about life and how to become a better person.

One example of that is Natchez High football coach Lance Reed.

Reed said he and his staff stress character first, academics second and then talk about football.

“That’s our main focus,” Reed said. “We want the players to be respectful on and off campus as a person.”

One way Reed gets his Natchez High players to do that is to encourage them to attend church.

“We try to go to church as a team,” Reed said. “It helps the players out a lot.”

Time spent with the players is important for a coach, because other than a parent, a coach is the adult a young athlete will be in contact with the most throughout their four years of high school.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Reed said of the players and his coaching staff. “You spend four years with a young man and get to know him and he gets to know you. You share things with them and try and help them reach their goals.”

That communication is made all the more important because some of the players are lacking a father figure in their lives, which is something a coach can provide.

“Some of these kids may not have a father figure in the home so it’s something a kid is looking for,” Reed said. “Our staff has an open door policy with the kids. They can talk about anything to us and call us whenever they need us.”

And that is something the players take advantage of, Reed said.

“I feel like they do,” he said. “Every player gets more comfortable with different coaches. Every coach on the staff has an important role in building up these young men. We try to help them not only as football players, but as people as well.”

While winning and losing is an important part of athletics, sometimes the best part is the opportunity for a coach to mold a young person into a responsible adult.

Reed is just one of many father-figure coaches in the Miss-Lou.

Step onto a field or on the hardwood and you’ll see many others.

It’s not just the play calls, after all, that clear the whirlwinds, it’s the life calls.

Because in the long run, the scores of football or basketball games played once upon a time will be forgotten by most everyone.

However, the lives of the young men and women who play high school athletics in the Miss-Lou will be changed forever by the people they come in contact with during their formative years, especially their coaches.

Our teams are lucky to have role models all around them.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or