January 31, 2016

Tom Smith's Story

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 am today.

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.