Klamath Union coach and teacher Tom Smith shares his story here.
Let me tell you a story.
People who know me know I like to tell stories when I'm trying to
make a point. So, let me tell you a story about my mentor. Back in
2000, I accepted a job offer to teach and coach at Klamath Union High
School. I thought I had all the answers and techniques to be a great
teacher and coach. As a teacher, I was very strict. It was business in
my class. No time for laughing, we had work to do. Sad to say, my
coaching was very much the same way. For me, coaching and teaching are
one and the same. Interestingly enough, I didn’t grow as a teacher
until I learned how to grow as a coach. I remember lots of yelling in
that first year of coaching. Not a whole lot of fun for me, and I
imagine not so much for the players as well.
Along comes Wayne Amos.
He hired me to be the offensive and defensive line coach. Never have I
met a man that knew more about the X's and O's of football. In the nine years I coached with Coach Amos, I learned that his true gift was not
just in the X's and O's, but rather relationship building with his
players. There was never a doubt in his players’ minds that he cared
about them. He spent time talking to the kids outside of practice
getting to know them. If there was a problem, Coach Amos was always the
first to step up to help a kid in need. Most of the time, kids just
needed a hug. He was well known for the “famous Amos hug.” It was his
way of saying he loved you. He had the same impact on adults as well.
Through it all, I watched. I learned. I tried it for myself. Anytime I
would get after a kid for messing up, he would always lean over and tell
me, “Now go show him some love." That meant giving a compliment,
giving a hug and many times both. As I transitioned in that first few
years from a yelling strict coach to a more Coach Amos like coach, I
found myself laughing with the kids, enjoying coaching and most
importantly, being happy. What I learned from my mentor is that there is
more to life than football. One of my favorite things Coach Amos would
say to me is, “Football teaches kids about life. When you get knocked
down, what do you do? You get back up, and you keep trying. Football can
turn these boys into fine young men if you coach it right." I was
fortunate enough to have a great mentor that molded me into the coach I
With all honesty, I love the kids I coach. It breaks my
heart, and I'm there for them when they fall short of their goals. I
celebrate with them when they succeed. I do this because that is what a
good coach does. I do this because it’s the right thing to do. I do
this because that’s what my mentor taught me. Many times if I'm
struggling with a coaching dilemma, I find myself thinking, “How would
Coach Amos handle this one?” He and I have remained close over the
years, and I still call him from time to time to get his advice on
coaching issues even though he is coaching at a rival school. To this
day, when we see each other around town or even on the football field, the
first thing we do is give each other a big hug to say, I love you.