top of page

Top 5 Reasons Good Coaches are Great for Your Kids

Growing up, I had a lot of positive male role models. Other than my dad, my father-in-law and the farmer I worked alongside for many years, all were coaches. Each of them had a significant influence on my life.

I’d like to tell you about five of them. In doing so, I hereby submit my Top 5 Reasons Why Good Coaches are Great for Your Kids.

#5 – A good coach exhibits and encourages enthusiasm. The first coach I ever had was named Verdell Lorenzen. He was my best friend’s dad and my first Little League coach when I was eight years old. I honestly don’t remember if he was a great teacher of fundamentals or if he understood game strategy. I don’t remember how many games we won that year. What I do remember is that he was enthusiastic.

I’ll never forget going to my first organized practice in Luverne, Minnesota. It was a hot summer day. I hooked my glove over the handlebar of my orange clunker of a bike and rode across town to the Little League diamonds. Coach Lorenzen drove up and pulled out a couple bags of beat up baseball equipment from the trunk. We lined up and played catch. We ran the bases and practiced sliding. He hit grounders to us and fly balls by the dozen. He threw batting practice to each of us as long as we were able to keep swinging. I rode home after that first practice covered in dust and glory. It was the most fun I ever had. Coach Lorenzen never tired of it either. He would practice with us as long as we wanted to play, a permanent smile etched on his face. I don’t remember what our uniforms (T-shirts) looked like. I don’t remember many of the other kids on the team. What I do remember is that our coach loved the game of baseball. I grew to love it too and it became my favorite sport. I played all through high school and college. I continued playing amateur ball until I was 30 at which time my wife had had just about enough of dragging three kids to 4-hour games on Sunday afternoons. In an effort to pay it forward, I coached both of my boys from tee ball until they got to high school. Thanks, Coach!

#4 – A good coach teaches life lessons in addition to athletic skills. The summer after I graduated from high school, I played Legion baseball for the city of Stoughton, Wisconsin. Our coach was named Tom Lawrence. I didn’t go to high school in Stoughton, so I didn’t know the rest of the guys on the team very well. What I can tell you is that Coach Lawrence had his hands full with that bunch of hooligans. At 17, I was one of the younger guys on the team but as a left-handed pitcher who threw 88 m.p.h., I was a valuable asset. Most of the other guys dispensed with formality and called Coach Lawrence ‘Tom’. I preferred his official title: Coach. We had a great team and eventually made it the Legion state championship game that summer.

One funny story about Coach Lawrence stands out in my mind. He was a bit quirky. He liked to quote famous leaders and dispense advice to his wayward charges. One day before a big game early in the season, we were all in the dugout waiting for Coach to fire up the troops and let us get after it. All of a sudden, he reached down into the dirt by his shoes and picked up a penny that he had spotted. He rubbed it carefully between his two fingers and put it in his pocket. One of the wisenheimers on the team laughed and said, “Coach, did you just pick up a penny and put it in your pocket?”

He looked at all of us sitting there on the bench. “Guys, let me tell you something,” he said. “If you’re not careful with the little things in life, nobody is ever going to trust you with the big things.” Nobody said a word. We went on to win that game. At the next game and all subsequent games that season, one of the players would pile up a little mound of dirt in the dugout and place a penny on top. Coach Lawrence caught on to our little joke, but he never failed to pick the penny up, wipe it between his fingers and put it in his pocket. Whenever I see a penny on the ground these days, I think of that piece of advice. Then I pick it up, wipe it off and put it in my pocket. Thanks, Coach!

#3 – A good coach continues to teach and coach fundamental skills. By the time I started college at the age of 18, I had been playing baseball for 10 years. I figured I knew just about everything about the game. Turns out I didn’t. My college baseball coach for my freshman and sophomore years was Marvin Meihak. With Coach Marv it was always about basics, basics, basics. “Hit ‘em on the letters! Keep your hands down on ground balls! Hit the cutoff man! Swing to make contact and hit the ball where it’s pitched!”

Not a practice went by without our team working on fundamental drills – bunting, sliding, turning double plays, backing up bases. We worked on defensive situations that might come up in a game. A lot of these things I had never practiced before. We had some pretty good teams under his direction. As one of his pitchers, I was the target of two of his most repeated lines. “If you change speeds and throw strikes, we’ll win our fair share!” When I’d throw a couple of wild ones, he’d yell from the dugout, “You gotta throw strikes! You gotta throw strikes.”

I wrote a previous blog article about Coach Marv. You can check it out if you click the link below. When I started coaching baseball, I lined my five-year-old tee ballers up and the first words out of my mouth were, “Hit ‘em on the letters, boys! Hit ‘em on the letters!” Thanks for the fundamentals, Coach!

#2 – A good coach can motivate your kids in ways that you can’t.

My college football coach was Dennis Gorsline, a.k.a. Goose. (We never called him that to his face.) My dad drove me from Wisconsin to Minnesota to drop me off for fall practice at the beginning of my freshman year in 1978. Coach Gorsline was sitting on the steps of the dorm when we pulled up. How he knew we were coming, I’ll never know. I got out of the car and walked toward him. He stood up, looked me over and said, “I thought you’d be bigger.” Keep in mind, I was a 6’ 1”, 185 lb. running back, so I wasn’t exactly tiny, but apparently he was expecting John Riggins.

Coach Gorsline was built like a brick ****house, square-jawed and intimidating. He had played semi-professional football before he started his coaching career. He also had a lazy eye which made it difficult for anybody under his watch to fool around because you never quite knew where he was looking. After our initial team meetings and first couple practices, along with some warnings from the upperclassmen, it was clear to me that Coach Gorsline was not a man to be trifled with. He was the kind of guy you’d like with you late on a Saturday night on the bad side of town.

His practices were well-organized and much harder than what I had experienced in high school. He was demanding but fair. His bark was worse than his bite...sometimes. In my case, I think he understood that I should be his starting tailback, but there was a senior ahead of me that got the nod in our first game. On the very first play, this kid from California took a handoff and headed through the line. He almost got beheaded by a knuckle-dragging beast of a linebacker with crooked teeth and had to be carted off the field. I took his place and never missed a down after that.

Coach Gorsline wasn’t dealing with Division 1 athletes, folks. We were a small NAIA school at the time and most of his players were from high schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He had a way of getting the most out of his players, however. Sometimes it was by yelling; sometimes it was by false flattery, sometimes it was through fear of what he might do to us in practice if we didn’t perform up to his expectations. I think he liked me because I practiced hard and I played hard. Still, there were times when he raked me over the coals to make sure he had my attention. One play stands out in my memory. We were playing Concordia College in St. Paul, MN. They had a running back named LeRoy McBrayer. He was big, fast and shifty. Rumor had it that the Dallas Cowboys even gave him a look after he left college. Halfway through the second quarter, we had been stopped on third down and had to punt the ball away. Our punter, a senior defensive back, had been injured earlier in the game. I fooled around with punting in practice, so Coach ran over to me on the sideline, grabbed me by the jersey and yanked me toward the field. “Madson, get in there and punt! Whatever you do, don’t kick it to McBrayer!”

I lined up behind our long snapper. He fired the ball back to me and I let go with the most beautiful spiraling punt in the history of college football. It flew 52 yards down the field...right into the hands guessed it...LeRoy McBrayer. He caught the ball on his own 16 yard line and proceeded to return the punt 84 yards for a touchdown. I ran to the sideline where Coach was waiting for me. He grabbed me by my face mask, pulled me in close, both eyes focused squarely on mine. “Madson!” he yelled! “You’re an idiot! I told you not to kick the ball to McBrayer!” Needless to say, that was the end of my college punting career. I had two memorable seasons under Coach Gorsline before I transferred schools. Thanks for all the great memories, Coach!

#1 – A good coach can influence lifelong career choices. Dale Walz, my high school varsity basketball coach, was my favorite and most influential coach. Even though he had other administrative and teaching responsibilities, he always had one thing, and only one thing, on his mind: basketball! He came from Minnesota and had graduated from college as the school’s leading scorer at the time. He was on the cocky side but could always back it up. He and I bonded over our love for the Minnesota Vikings. Eventually, I would morph over to the dark side and become a Packers fan, but that’s another story.

My junior year in high school proved to be the most challenging time in my athletic career. The other juniors and I were on a senior dominated team, and it was the first time in my life that I spent more time on the bench than playing. I hated that. Coach Walz knew I was unhappy, and he had unique way of keeping me engaged. On Tuesdays and Fridays when we had games, he would always find me somewhere in the school. He’d say, “Madson, I hope you’re ready for the game tonight. We’re gonna need you.” My hopes would soar and then be dashed as I spent another night riding the pines. Coach wanted to win, so he played the guys he thought would make that happen. One night, after opening a big lead against a conference opponent, he called a time-out with 30 seconds remaining and called five of us junior hacks over and subbed us en masse. Keep in mind, we had been sitting on the bench all night twiddling our thumbs. We reluctantly ran out onto the floor and proceeded to make as many turnovers, missed shots and dunderhead plays as humanly possible in 30 seconds. When we got into the locker room, I thought Coach would commend the team as a whole for the big win. Nope. He was furious. He looked at the five knuckleheads who had embarrassed him and yelled, “And that’s why you guys never play!”

We righted the ship the next year. As seniors we won our conference championship and were one basket away in double overtime from going to the state tournament. The upstart junior player who took the final ill-advised shot (instead of me) will remain nameless. Forgiven? Not so fast.

Bottom line? Coach Walz was my idol in high school. Halfway through my senior year, when I was still unsure about what career I wanted to pursue, he talked to me about becoming a teacher. In fact, one of his college buddies taught at a grade school in town and he arranged for me to spend a day observing him in the classroom. I enjoyed it and realized that this is what I wanted to do. I ended up going to the same teacher training college that he attended and that got me two years down the road to eventually graduating with a degree in education.

In addition to that, Coach Walz had asked if any of us were interested in learning how to become basketball officials. A couple of us said, “Sure!” He spent a lot of hours teaching us about the rules of the game and got us in touch with W.I.A.A. body that trained and sanctioned referees. He then got me and a buddy started by having us officiate grade school games around the area. I followed this side hustle for another ten years after I got my first teaching job in 1982. I ended up teaching middle school and coaching basketball for 21 years.

Coach Walz eventually moved to a larger school in the Milwaukee area and went on to have one of the most successful coaching careers in Wisconsin high school basketball history. He was elected to the Wisconsin Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008 after winning 515 games in 35 years. He was an inspiration to me and many others. Thanks, Coach!

If your kids play sports, I sure hope they are fortunate enough to be coached by men or women that model enthusiasm, teach life lessons, coach fundamentals, push them hard physically and mentally and maybe even inspire lifelong career choices. Thanks to all the coaches out there who give their time and talents to young athletes. You are appreciated.

188 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Karen Piro
Karen Piro
Sep 27, 2023

Another great article! And…. A great reminder to thank all the coaches in our lives, our kids lives, and our grandkids lives!😃

bottom of page