Watching Alton Sterling’s son cry out for him immediately filled me with emotion. What will happen to this young man? Who will guide him? Who will be his father figure now? Many of our young black men find themselves in this dilemma and it leads to a life of uncertainty. Many of these young Black males find guidance through sports and their coaches.
We spoke with Percy Walters, a youth football coach of the Homewood Flossmoor Jr. Vikings, about how being a coach helps teach and guide our children.
In what ways has coaching prepared you to guide your athletes on and off the field?
I teach all of my boys to work hard, have fun, and we will win. That holds true in life, too. You have to work hard in the classroom as well as the field. You have to have fun because life is too short. And more times than not, if you are doing those things then you will be winning.
Why do you think it is important for children to participate in organized sports?
I believe that sports teaches kids so many lessons that translate to real life. You learn how to work in a team setting, which is beneficial for any career later in life. Kids experience how to take direction and to work under pressure. Sports teaches kids to not give up and to keep on going in pursuit of your goals. Kids who play sports understand these concepts at an early age.
What are the parallels between coaching and being a father?
Coaching and being a father are both role models. Coaches have to lead by example on the field and father,s as well. A father is the leader of his family and that unit is a team. Every person in the family has a function and role just as players on a team have. I believe that fathers and coaches look for examples to teach life lessons to their kids and players.
What does it take to be an effective leader/coach?
Being a leader and a coach requires an endless supply of humility, in my opinion. I don’t claim to know everything about football or life but I am humble enough to ask for help or advice. I also feel that leaders and coaches should never be ashamed to admit when they have made a mistake. A coach/leader should be a tireless advocate for their team.
How do you encourage when the child or athlete faces adversity?
Adversity on and off the field is unavoidable. I believe in explaining to the kid what our options are moving forward. I like to put a positive spin on any situation and explain how this parallels real life and what we all can learn from it. That perspective has enabled me to use the negative situation and turn it into a coachable moment.
Tell us about your most rewarding coaching experience.
My most rewarding coaching experiences are not wins or championships. I love to see kids who begin the season not playing much and to see their development into a contributor. These are kids who aren’t as fast or athletic as some of their counterparts. However, I love to watch the hard work and determination kick in and transform them into players who we need on the field by the end of the season. Those kids are the reason I coach.
How do you manage your time between coaching and work?
Managing my time between coaching and work has been challenging over the years. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to make my own schedule. However, this balance on many days required me to sacrifice some business time to football. Those time constraints can also be challenging regarding family time also.
Finish the sentence: Being a coach means…
Being a coach means teaching kids that sports are only important because of the lessons and attributes that are reinforced through sports.