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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Coaches Can Teach X's and O's of Life

November 22, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

A high school football coach has the power of a preacher, able to influence teenagers' lives in profound ways.

Sometimes it takes years for players to appreciate what their coaches are trying to teach them, but when it finally sinks in, it's a magical moment.

On Thanksgiving eve, it's an appropriate time to recognize that high school football is more than wins and losses--it's about lessons learned.

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Dana Berg is a computer programmer living in Irvine. Seven years ago, he was a star receiver for L.A. Baptist High's Southern Section Division X championship team that finished with a 13-0 record.

Something bizarre happened after the Knights' championship game at Birmingham High in 1993, and it involved the team's offensive coordinator, Gregg Frazer.

"He's a soft-spoken intellectual," Berg said. "We called him 'The Genius.' Through all the wins, he was always calm. There were just a couple of us sitting around reflecting. They were turning off the stadium lights. The sprinklers were on. He hands me his clipboard and this once quiet, calm man takes off in a full sprint and dives at the 50-yard line.

"My God, this is Coach Frazer. He's supposed to be reading an encyclopedia. When he dove, he displayed in an instant how important it was to achieve a goal. I couldn't believe it. It showed me here's a man on the outside so calm and collected, but he had a goal and the drive. You need to be proud and have pride in what you accomplish in life."

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Scott Brewster is a doctor working in emergency medicine at UCLA Medical Center. It took great discipline to endure years of sleepless nights and studying, but a constant source of inspiration came from playing wide receiver at Notre Dame High in 1982-85 and learning from assistant coach Jon Mack.

"He had an amazing knack to get you to succeed when you necessarily couldn't," Brewster said. "We learned where hard work could get you and if you believed in yourself, you really could accomplish anything you want.

"What I learned in sports helped me get through medical school. Being used to competition, being used to working incredibly hard. There were times I called Coach Mack in medical school to hear his inspirational speeches. He was able to get us to play above our talents.

"There were times I wanted to take off and leave Northwestern and I always went back to things he taught me. I can't believe the stuff he got me to do. I used to hate track. I would vomit. He'd make me run the 880 and he'd run the last 220 screaming and yelling at me. Things I couldn't do he got me to do. And I still hate track."

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John Carpenter is a project manager for a home-building company in Houston. Every day he must provide leadership to his workers. What he draws upon are his experiences as a lineman for Coach Bill Redell on Crespi's 1986 Division I championship team.

"He was extremely good at knowing how to talk to his players," Carpenter said. "He would be talking to me about insurance, then all of a sudden he'd put on a different hat for a different guy.

"I look back thinking would I ever go into coaching and my answer would be, 'Hell no.' I have a hard time telling somebody something when I don't believe it. Coaches had to stretch to get somebody motivated. You have to know what it is that motivates people. I have to act like a football coach to get these guys excited.

"I saw how he did it. He was a tremendous motivator. Watching how he coached that team, half of me was being coached and the other half was watching him. I was absorbing the information. He could reach kids. He would see deep inside every kid and figure out what it took to motivate them.

"I'd be sitting and listening to him ranting and raving and I'd have to hold myself back from laughing. Everybody else is believing it. There were other times he'd have to kick me in the butt. It's like the military. You can't stand your drill sergeant but are crying when you graduate. He cared enough about his job that he would treat you like a [son] and teach you more stuff than just the game. It probably didn't reach everybody, but he taught me more than about football."

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Chris Shinnick is a youth pastor in Hawaii. At El Camino Real in 1993, he set a school rushing record with 1,313 yards. But what he took away most from playing for Coach Mike Maio were a series of one-liners that he can't get out of his head.

"The one I use most often as a youth pastor is, 'Hustle makes it happen,' " he said. "It's kind of silly, but I say it so much the kids are getting sick of it. Nothing is going to get done unless you're going full speed. 'Hustle makes it happen.'

"Now, more than any time, I appreciate Coach Maio. He was going to be Mike Maio no matter what anyone thought. Criticism didn't bother him. Other people's opinions didn't waver him. He was going to be Coach Maio. I respect that. So often you can live to please others and Coach Maio wasn't concerned about that. He was going to be himself and coach the way he wanted to coach."

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