A Thank-you Note to all My Coaches

Joe Baum. Paul Dresser. Jim Fowler.

Olympics Day 14 - Athletics

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

George Frisch. Nick Logan.

In the words of Butch Cassidy, “Who are those guys?”

Those guys are my coaches- listed alphabetically. From these men, I learned the lessons that formed my vision of righteous manhood.

From these men, I learned about duty and sacrifice; how to put the needs of the group beyond the needs of the ego and the self. I learned what it means to give up myself in order to be part of something bigger than my own vague sense of “me.”

From these men, I learned about discipline. I learned how to stretch myself mentally, physically and emotionally. I learned that I can always do one more. I learned that in order to give orders, I must first learn to take orders.  I learned to speak up. I learned to shut up. I learned that there is beauty in delaying the brief glory of the moment for growth that will last long into the future.

From these men, I learned that honor matters. I learned to play within the rules. I learned that one cannot have ‘a little’ integrity. I learned that fair play is best demonstrated when no one else is there to see it.

From these men, I learned about responsibility. I learned that training for sport develops character, yet, in the playing of sport, one’s character is revealed.

From these men, I learned that when the baton is passed, one must grab it tight and run your darnedest.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call from a student-athlete I coached on our high school ski team a few years back. An honor student, a captain, a quiet leader; When I spoke about him at our banquet in his senior year, I said “Josh is the sort of young man every parent would want for a son. He is the sort of young man you would want your daughter to marry.” (As I have a very fine son of my own, I have some expertise in this area.) Josh is graduating from University soon and is entering the US Air Force Officer’s Training program. He asked me for a letter of recommendation. Here’s the email conversation which followed:

Hey Coach Stanley, 

This is my email and where you can send my letter whenever you get around to completing it. Hopefully within the next two weeks. Thank you again for doing this, I really appreciate it. 

Thanks again,



Dear Josh,

I will write it this weekend, edit it Monday and get them in the mail. I usually write, then put stuff aside, and then go back and re-read.

Does the letter need to go into a sealed envelope with my signature over the flap? I recall I had to do that for an Officer Candidate School letter a few years ago. I’ll give you a copy, too. I said good things.

Fortunately, they’re true.

Coach S.



No you don’t, a signature on the letter is enough I believe. Haha, as far as you know they are true 😉 but thanks Mr. Stanley, I really appreciate it.



Dear Josh-

Good enough. In the mail tomorrow from Flint.

Thanks for asking for the letter.  I really do like bragging about you guys.

All I ask is that when it’s your turn in 20 years or so for some kid, you do the same.

Coach S.


Hey Coach-

Awesome, thank you, and you got a deal. Hopefully some kid trusts me enough to write a letter for him.

Also, when I get my race schedule for this winter I’ll send you an email or something so you have it. Be great to be back on the hill with you. 🙂



Coaches, over the course of a season, our won-loss records matter. But over the course of a lifetime, what truly matters are the lives we touch.


Joe Baum- Michigan State University soccer 1976-8

Paul Dresser- Carman High School soccer 1972-6

Jim Fowler- FSRC Tennis 1970-6

George Frisch- USSA Skiing 1976-81

Nick Logan- FSRC Tennis 1972-8

The lessons I learned from you; on the field, court and hill, molded me as a coach and a man.  Those lessons shaped my life. Your lessons will continue to teach far into the future, long beyond 2013.

As coaches, we never know whose lives we touch. Thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, did you have a coach who helped shaped your life? Who was s/he? What made them special? Are you still in touch?


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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  1. Josh says:

    I feel famous. Hopefully girls will want my autograph soon. But its true.. Coaches are like second parents, usually a little cooler. They’re your moral compass out of the house, thankfully I had one like you. 🙂

    Although that’s worrisome too..

    • Brandon P. Duncan says:

      “Usually a little cooler…” That made me laugh.

  2. Brandon P. Duncan says:

    As I was never so far into sports that I can name individual coaches, I do know that I have had several coaches (in life) through various activities—teachers, scout leaders and staff, unlikely college mentors, and of course, in the military.

    I always hold the the view (and am glad to tell others) that, at least in the military, you will have crappy leaders and really great ones. You learn from ALL of them. Whether the lesson is “Don’t do this or be like this” or “DEFINITELY do or be like this” there is a lesson to be had from them all.

    The best ones will tell you NOT to be like them. Don’t be like ANYONE. You take bits and pieces from everyone around you and you form your own style. No one can be better at it than you.

    I also use one particular quote often—“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland

    I have used that quote in so many situations, you wouldn’t believe it. I know I have my “coaches” from the past to thank for understanding the meaning of it.

    • David Stanley says:

      Weill said, Brandon. You have to be the best version of yourself. As a coach, I insist that things be done properly, but I rarely raise my voice. My AD once mentioned that she had complaints from parents that I was not demonstrative enough on the sidelines during games. Other parents complained that I was too ‘picky’ with the kids during practice. But we won, and my kids stayed out of trouble. It’s who I was.

  3. Arjan Tupan says:

    Great post. I really like how you asked the now-famous Josh to remember this and pay it forward if he ever gets that opportunity. I think that shows what a good coach you are.

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