For What It’s Worth

Yes, a coach did this

When you think of a football coach, is your first thought that of a coach bellowing angrily on the sidelines at a player or game official, a coach making some snarling comment to the media, or a coach just ranting? Or, is the first image in your mind that of a coach penning a note of encouragement or thoughtfully extending words of condolence or compassion in a time of despair or personal tragedy?

I’m kidding about the second set of alternative images, right? Wrong. I am, however, assuming a stereotype that suggests the most likely first image to come to mind when the words “football coach” are uttered would be something akin to the first images listed in my question.

I won’t name any coaches, but I am confident that any of you who attend football games or watch them on TV have recently seen verbal tirades from coaches or witnessed actions I assume you would not tolerate in your children.

Gentlemanly. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Encouraging.

Quite likely, these are not words that quickly come to mind as being synonymous with the football coaches frequently in the news.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t apply to many coaches. They do, and I like to remember that when I see a coach raging in anger.

One of the first coaches who comes to mind is Bill Snyder at Kansas State, a man I would like to meet someday.

Snyder is a top-notch coach, as his record will attest, and he is also a classy person, as his actions attest. I have never seen him rant or rage along the sideline or offer caustic or derogatory comments in interviews after a game, win or lose. Every sportswriter I have talked to over the years who has dealt with Snyder refers to the man as a gentleman.

Not long ago, I read an article about Snyder taking time after a game to write a personal, handwritten letter to a player on the opposing team complimenting him on his fine play and wishing him success in the future. What a thoughtful and encouraging gesture. That letter was not the only one Coach Snyder has written. Turns out this is something he does on a regular basis.

He is thoughtful in other ways, also. In 1999, Phil Bennett had just started his job as defensive coordinator on Coach Snyder’s staff at KSU when his wife was struck by lightning while jogging. Just over two weeks later, she died, leaving behind her husband and two children, a son age 11 and a daughter age 7. Three days after her mom’s death, the daughter had her 8th birthday. In this time of need, Coach Snyder stepped in and organized a celebration birthday party in the K-State coaches’ offices with about 400 people in attendance.

“I wouldn’t be a coach today if it wasn’t for Bill Snyder,” Bennett told the Kansas City Star. “He saved my life.”

Several years later, in the fall of 2011, Glenn Spencer, then an assistant coach and now defensive coordinator at OSU, lost his wife when she died due to a heart condition. That left Spencer and his two sons on their own. Bennett immediately sat down and wrote a personal note of encouragement and comfort to Spencer.

I find these coaches admirable for these traits, and I also note that they are successful coaches. Snyder has a hall of fame career, and Spencer and Bennett are defensive coordinators for the two Big 12 teams ranked nationally in the top 10 in the BCS standings—OSU and Baylor, respectively.

These men strike me as coaches whom players would like to play for, and their success suggests that this is a fair assumption.

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