Thursday, February 3, 2011
Nice visit with ‘Coach’
Lots of times, young people just need a chance.
A couple of weeks ago when visiting Red Bay, Ala., for a retirement reception, I ran into several acquaintances from the past.
One of those, surprisingly, was coach L.E. Tyra.
I had not seen “Coach” in at least 20 years. It was great to shake his hand.
I started playing basketball at a young age – lots of my preliminary training coming on my own, at home in the gravel driveway with a wooden backboard and goal nailed to a pine tree.
Then I later signed up with the Hamilton, Ala., Parks and Recreation league.
In seventh grade, I shifted to the school teams. I did not see a lot of playing time in the seventh grade and then saw more in the eighth grade – which is pretty typical.
But in the ninth grade, one day in practice, Coach Tyra gave me an opportunity when one of our other players was injured. He let me step up to the starting five.
I remember that after-school practice like it was yesterday. I’d never been so excited.
I started most every game the rest of my career – from junior high to B-team to varsity – and in my mind, the bulk of the credit goes to Coach Tyra. He gave me the opportunity, and thank goodness, I took advantage.
Coach Tyra, like the rest of my coaches growing up at Hamilton, Ala., was tough. I was scared of him.
He got in my face at times. I did not like him always.
But then he would compliment me and my teammates, too, for a job well done.
Today, I love and respect him – just like I do all of my former coaches. And some yelled at me even more than Coach Tyra.
Standing with friends at Red Bay, I told “Coach” how much I appreciated him – the discipline, the coaching and the chance to start.
He remarked to the group, “Hey, if all of my players would have been like Barry, my job would have been much easier.”
At age 49, that praise touched my heart like none other I’d ever received.
Coach Tyra told me that he had been struggling through some health problems. That, too, made me so glad that I made the drive to Red Bay that Sunday afternoon for the retirement reception of LaVale Mills, long-time publisher of The Red Bay News.
It was wonderful seeing and sharing laughs with LaVale and her family members, high school classmate David Markham and many other good friends from my days at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton.
But, being honest, being able to see and talk with Coach Tyra was the icing on the cake.
Other people have given me opportunities over the years, too – like my mom letting me drive that small motorcycle to Little League baseball practice while she worked, like the elders letting me present five-minute talks at church as a teenager, like that first job at the printing company, my first newspaper work as a sports “stringer,” like my mom putting me through college, and that first promotion from sports editor to managing editor and later to publisher.
I would urge teachers, coaches, parents, church leaders, administrators, business leaders to remember – often all our young people need is an opportunity. They might just surprise you.
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