Readers Pay Tribute to Influential Coaches

Hometown Heroes, People
on March 9, 2008
courtesy of Ron Herrara Coach Kevin Coyle cheered up young heart transplant recipient Riley Herrera with an invitation to attend a Cincinnati Bengals practice last June.

Last fall American Profile asked readers to share their stories about coaches whove had a positive influence on their lives or someone they know. We received letters from across nation telling us about these heroes and their contributions on and off the baseball field, basketball court and gridiron. Here are a few of their inspirational stories:

Coach Kevin Coyle
A heart for kindness

In February 2007, 14-year-old Riley Herreras family temporarily relocated from Helena, Mont. (pop. 25,780), to a tiny apartment in Cincinnati as Riley awaited a donor heart at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital. Riley, who suffered from cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, underwent transplant surgery a month later and spent months in Cincinnati recovering.

It was really boring, recalls Riley, now 15. I didnt have any friends there.

That changed one day in June, when Riley got a call from the Cincinnati Bengals secondary coach, Kevin Coyle, who had heard about the teenager through a mutual friend. Coyle invited Riley to visit the football teams practice.

It was really neat, Riley says. We got to meet all the players and we got to meet the coach and we got to do practice with them. Riley smiled that day for the first time in months, says his father, Ron, 41. Rileys new heart gave him life, Ron adds, but coach Coyle gave him his spirit back.

It does make you feel good that you can brighten someones day up just by spending some time and acknowledging them and just showing that you care, says Coyle, 52, who keeps a photo of Riley on his office wall. Whenever any of us can take advantage of that, its the proper thing to do. I think everybody wins.

Coach Ed Sabey
A legacy of sportsmanship

Ed Sabey was a teacher and coach at New Lisbon (Wis.) High School for 35 yearsuntil 2004, when he retired. When he died at age 63 in December 2006 after a long battle with cancer, his familywife Laurel, 63, and children Karyn, 43, Janet, 36, and Eddie, 40decided to honor his memory by establishing the Ed Sabey Memorial Sportsmanship Scholarship, which has been funded by donations from former players and community members.

Renee Connor, the first recipient of the $1,000 scholarship, says that she, like most everyone in and around New Lisbon (pop. 1,436), knew and respected the man who tirelessly coached football, basketball and baseball, and worked at a summer recreation program for young kids.

People in the town looked up to him a lot, as a teacher and as a friend, says Connor, 19, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He was always smiling. He was really always willing to listen to people.

To Sabey, sportsmanship was about more than an athletes conduct on the fieldit was about living life with integrity, honesty and commitment.

He was constantly striving to give his best to his family, his students, his team and his friends, says Sabeys daughter Karyn Sabey Bell. He helped his students believe that they had a special quality that burned inside that would keep them going if they only continued to try no matter what the odds.

Enough donations have been contributed that the scholarship will continue for many years, Karyn says, ensuring that coach Sabeys passion for the kids and sports at New Lisbon High School, and his ideals of sportsmanship, will live on.

Coach Jim Bazzell
Making dreams come true

Growing up in a poor family in Scottsville, Ky. (pop. 4,327), in the 1950s, Jim McDaniels dreamed of playing professional basketball, but it wasnt until he was in eighth grade, after public schools were integrated, that he stepped inside a gymnasium.

That was at Scottsville High School, where he played eighth- and ninth-grade basketball. I was young and awkward, McDaniels says. I had the height6-foot-11but not the skill.

I decided one day on my walk to school that if I was going to be a good basketball player that I would have to get under a good coach. McDaniels wanted to play under coach Jim Bazzell, at nearby Allen County High School, who always had the best teams. So one day he paid a visit to Bazzell and asked the coach to take him under his wing.

He told me, If you work hard on the basketball court, and you work hard in the classroom and keep your grades up, I believe you can be the best basketball player thats ever come out of the state, McDaniels recalls.

Under Bazzells guidance, McDaniels became one of the top high school players in the nation, averaging 38.6 points a game his senior year. After graduating from Allen County High, McDaniels became an All-American at Western Kentucky University, and played professional basketball from 1971 to 1978 in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association.

Bazzell, now 81, says McDaniels was a hard worker and wanted to succeed. He was a mighty fine young man, says the coach, who in his 17 years with Allen County High achieved a career record of 417 wins and 89 losses.

McDaniels, 59, now public relations manager for an oil company in Bowling Green, Ky. (pop. 49,296), says Bazzell made his childhood dream come true. He spoke into my heart and spirit and I was able to believe in myself.

Coach David Phillips
Field of dreams

In 2003, David Phillips, of Marysville, Ohio (pop. 15,942), created a football program for boys and girls ages 8 to 12 in nearby Milford Center (pop. 626). Phillips, who had taken an early retirement in 1995, personally helped finance the nonprofit Union County Junior Football League and created the Fairbanks Junior Panthers football team.

The Panthers made the Junior Buckeye Conference playoffs four times and won the 2005 championship. But Phillips had another dream: He wanted the Panthers to have their own field. So he struck a deal with the Milford Center village council to lease a 3-acre parcel of land for $1 annually.

It was chest high with weeds and debris, shrubs and gravel, and oh it was just a mess, Phillips recalls. He spent three years single-handedly clearing trees, raking rocks and hauling off debrisall the more remarkable because Phillips, 47, was left with a physical disability after having a brain tumor removed at age 25.

He has overcome a lot of obstacles to do this, says Marysville resident Kristy Hamilton, 48. He doesnt want to take credit for anything, but he deserves it.

It was all about just proving to those kids that if you have a dream, work hard . . . the only way to succeed in anything is give it everything, says Phillips, a father of two grown children. The Veteran of Foreign Wars donated a flagpole, a local family built a wooden scoreboard, and Phillips installed a goalpost, bleachers and a makeshift concession stand. Parents help raise money through T-shirt and program sales and bake sales.

On Aug. 25, 2007, the Junior Panthers played their first game on VFW Field, a name Phillips chose to honor Americas veterans.

Michaela Henderson, 11, who scored the first two touchdowns on the new field, says coach Phillips is an inspiration to everyone on the team. Hes like, always positive and hes nice and always has high hopes, she says. He always tells us, Just play your best and have a good time.

Coach Mark Campbell
A lasting influence

For many young people, a coach is more than a sports instructor. That was the case for Darryll Canida, whose basketball coach, Mark Campbell, at Tupelo (Okla.) High School changed his life. With help from coach Campbell, Canida left his abusive father and went to live with another family in Tupelo (pop. 377) his sophomore through senior years. Understanding the youngsters difficult situation, the coach did his best to help guide him.

He taught me little things that a dad would teach me, like not giving up, and working if there was work to be done, Canida says. He didnt just teach me about the game of basketball, he taught me about life.

Canida, 42, says that even though coach Campbell had a wife and four children, he always made time for the kids on his basketball and baseball teams. He took me to church, college basketball games, dinners with his family, and loved me when I didnt feel lovable, Canida says.

In his three decades of coaching, Campbell has taken 33 teams to state tournaments and won seven championships in various sports, but the opportunity to serve as a positive role model and help steer young lives in the right direction is what means the most to him.

Those things are very, very important to me, says Campbell, 59, who now coaches girls basketball at Claremore (Okla.) High School. You never know what impact you have at the time. Im sure proud of Darryll and what hes turned out to be.

Canida went on to get a masters degree in education, then coached middle school basketball for 15 years. Today, the father of two teaches at Blue Springs Elementary in Cleveland, Tenn. (pop. 37,192). It wasnt until I became a coach with a family that I truly came to appreciate the time and sacrifice that coach Campbell gave and made for me and my teammates, Canida says. I am the man I am today because God put Mark Campbell in my life.