Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 23 December 2008 15:02
The following men have a lot in common: Bill Self, Mark Mangino, Bill Snyder, Frank Martin, Darrel Knoll, Nathan Hiebert, Shawn Winter, Leonard Coryea, Mike Gottsch and Micah Ratzlaff. All are head coaches in football or basketball.
There’s also a lot they don’t have in common.
The first four are household names in Kansas. The last six are household names only in Hillsboro.
The first four hold regular press conferences and have TV or radio shows. The Hillsboro six are judged by local fans in the usual small-town way—downtown, in restaurants or anywhere two or three people with an interest in local sports are gathered.
On the surface, there are stark differences between the two groups. But in terms of making a difference in the lives of young people, the coaches in Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody, etc., may have as great or even greater impact on young people than their more prominent counterparts at KU and K-State.
At KU and Kansas State, coaches are paid big bucks to win games. And fans in Hillsboro have enjoyed KU and KSU athletic successes as much as fans elsewhere.
I wouldn't want to downplay the significance of Bill Snyder’s past success in football at KSU or Bill Self’s ongoing success with KU basketball, but I was reminded just recently that our local coaches play a greater role in our community.
In this Christmas season, I’m reminded how fortunate we are to have coaches with a heart for helping young people. They won’t get the headlines and the huge paychecks, but who’s to say that their legacy won’t ultimately be greater than major college coaches who bring millions of dollars to a university with a national championship?
For example, Hillsboro High School boys basketball coach Darrel Knoll had a long week preparing his team for a game against Wichita Collegiate to open the season. His week probably felt even longer as the Trojans were dominated in a lopsided loss. He has experienced many one-sided games during his coaching career, but more often than not, he’s on the winning side.
The next day I went to pick up my oldest son from the JAM basketball program, and there was Knoll teaching and coaching basketball to a group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys. Although he was likely physically and emotionally spent, he was doing everything he could to encourage the kids and be patient in the midst of erratic passes and frequent missed shots.
The JAM program has undoubtedly benefited the high school basketball program and provides solid instruction to kids who have an interest and ability to play the game. But not every kid who participates will become high school varsity basketball players, and Knoll teaches them all, those with great or limited potential, the game of basketball.
Much of what a coach does is visible to the public, but coaches also do so much more behind the scenes, whether in practice, in the classroom or out in the community. Obviously, not every coach is a paragon of virtue, but we have generally been fortunate in the caliber of men and women hired to coach in the local schools and college.
In fact, when you stop to think about it, many in our community work behind the scenes and make a difference in people's lives. Thank you, social workers, garbage collectors, police officers, teachers, nurses, waiters and waitresses, high school teachers, college professors, staff serving in retirement homes, Sunday school teachers, pastors, Main Street Ministries, Prairie View, businessmen and women, and city and county officials, just to name a few.
Don’t underestimate the role of a humble servant. The most popular book in history, the Bible, describes the birth of God’s Son, Jesus, in the most humble of beginnings, a manger in a Bethlehem stable.
And from that humble beginning, Jesus, taking a road less traveled, influences the world to this day.