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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times editorial: Profiles in coaching courage

  • The issue: The importance of coaching at all levels, and a reminder for youth coaches to be positive role models this summer.

    Our view: Whether it's professional, college, scholastic or youth sports, good coaching and upbeat messages are influential for athletes, especially those who are younger. Here are two examples — one local and one national — of coaches who get it.
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  • With the frozen drudgery of winter now in our collective rearview mirror, the thoughts and attention of many turn to summer.
    And, it's difficult to think summer without imagining warm, sunny days at the ballpark.
    Given so, now seems a fitting time to highlight coaching and the vitally important role good coaching leaders have on their athletes, beyond merely teaching fundamentals, techniques, and developing game plans.
    A sports story in Wednesday's Leavenworth Times grabbed our attention as an example of a coach who's doing the right things and conveying the right messages to players.
    On the surface, it didn't seem Immaculata High School softball coach George Johnson had much to celebrate Tuesday night, after his then-.500 Lady Raiders fell into a losing season by getting swept in a doubleheader by undefeated Oskaloosa.
    Imac, which was then 7-7 and is now 7-11, was drubbed by a combined 21-0 in the two losses Tuesday.
    A lot of coaches would have been irate. But, take note of Johnson's calming words and his sense of the bigger picture.
    "I couldn't be more proud of these girls," he told the Times. "That team right there (Oskaloosa) is beating people 22-0, 27-0, and we came in and played pretty good. They have one of the best pitchers in the area and one of the best catchers in the area, and they showed why they are who they are."
    The coach praised his senior pitcher, Kasey Cannon, for her maturity, leadership, and grit by battling for nine combined innings against the Oskaloosa onslaught.
    He complimented a stellar defensive play in the first inning by center fielder Abbie Meirose, and was encouraged by his team's fearless approach at the plate.
    "I'm confident in these girls," Johnson said. "They don't know how good they can be. If they keep plugging away, they will be better than expected.
    "We've won more games this year than Imac has ever won. We've scored over 120 runs — they've never done all those things, they are brand new to all that. This year, for me, is just a total success."
    It's true we live in a hypercompetitive world today, and the boundaries between college and professional sports and youth sports are blurring into an unrecognizable haze, mostly due to overzealous adults — coaches and parents — muddying the message.
    Granted, in life there's indeed an importance to winning, whether it's applying for a job or competing for new business.
    However, we lose when winning is the premium, the sole measurement for success, when a win-at-all-costs mentality is the only bottom line.
    There's something to be said for wide-angle views like Johnnson's, for appreciating circumstances like improvement, hard work and striving for better, particularly when the final result isn't what we set out to achieve.
    Page 2 of 2 - Johnson seems to get this with his softball program, encouraging his players' growth while not letting them settle.
    Another prime coaching example that stands out, at one of the most competitive levels, was Doc Rivers' leadership of his Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA playoffs.
    Rivers and his players, most of whom are African-American, found themselves unfairly at the center of controversy when bigoted owner Donald Sterling's racist remarks went viral.
    Rivers could have railed against his employer, the situation and timing, and let emotions poison his players, disrupting their pursuit of a championship.
    He didn't let it happen.
    He voiced his opinion on Sterling, allowed his players to vent, and refocused the Clippers' organization from top to bottom on their jobs and the task at hand. Rivers and the Clips fell short of a banner this year, but he and his players should be proud for working through adversity.
    Johnson keeping his student-athletes focused on continued improvement, and Rivers guiding his professionals through a national firestorm are examples of wisdom, and in the opinion of the Leavenworth Times, a type of coaching courage.
    It's true sports aren't meant to be platforms for social change, or a curriculum for life lessons.
    Likewise, coaches, in the scheme of things, aren't supposed to be elevated above teachers or parents.
    Nonetheless, it works out the way sometimes. That's not so bad when coaches like Johnson and Rivers are the standard rather than the exception.

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