Pride in Teaching
Coach Wallace’s identity was as much of a math teacher as it was a coach. He always took pride in his math classes and thoroughly enjoyed the art and challenge of teaching. Penny, Coach’s wife, says that more often than not most of his conservations with former students center on math instead of athletics.
Being There Is Important
One summer in the mid to late 70’s, Mr. Robert Morris had a heart attack. Mr. Morris’s son Mike was a member of Coach Wallace’s basketball team. The Morris family farmed in the Caledonia community. Mr. Morris’s illness came at a bad time for his family because their tobacco crop was ready to be harvested. Coach Wallace organized our team and we helped Mike cut and house their tobacco. I don’t remember if we were of much help but our efforts were noble.
In the fall of 1977, my Cross Country teammate Kevin Reynolds was paralyzed in an automobile accident. I can still remember the dreary gray day that Coach Wallace took all us to the Ft. Campbell hospital to see Kevin. I remember the feeling of seeing Kevin lying in bed with the halo brace around his head. I still remember the helplessness I felt. I also remember Coach Wallace helping us deal with the situation. Footnote: Kevin’s paralysis was permanent but his zest for life was stronger. He has lived a remarkable life.
Coach Saves A Life
Again, the time period is the 70’s, around the summer of 76. School had not started yet and Coach Wallace’s summer job was running the swimming pool. Coach would often take us for a swim after a hot cross-country practice. The pool would be closed by the time we finished practice and it was a thrill to have it to ourselves for thirty minutes or so. The first time he did this, he pulled his truck up to the gate and let us in. Within seconds, guys with names like Steve Guess, Fenton Dawson, Mo Morris, and myself had jumped into the twelve-foot deep end. There was only one problem. Lenny Raley followed us in also. By the time we looked around Lenny was sinking like the Titanic. You see Lenny couldn’t swim and didn’t know how deep it was. All there was to show of Lenny was a stream of bubbles coming from the bottom. Without hesitation Coach Wallace dove into the pool and pulled him out quicker than a flash. Nice work Coach! We all appreciate that and I know Lenny does to.
A Coach For Life
Fortunately many coach/player relationships lasts a lifetime. Sadly, sometimes coaches deal with the passing of their former players. Coach Wallace has dealt with the passing of three of his former athletes. Those three are Mike Holland, Frank Hopson and Fenton Dawson. I know that Coach has talked to their families, been to visitations or attended their funerals. Coach Wallace’s role in his athletes’ lives extends beyond the end of the season, past graduation, into and through life.
Love For Trigg County
In March of 1975, Christian County defeated Coach Wallace’s Trigg County team in the finals of the 2nd region tournament. Within weeks Christian’s Coach Bob Hoggard left County to take a new job. The late Superintendent W.D. Kelly offered Wallace the Christian County job. Anyone with any basketball sense knew that Christian County was the best basketball job in Western Kentucky. Your chances of going to the state tournament were better there than anywhere. The talent pool was deep and seemingly endless. Coach Wallace turned the job down due to his desire to remain in Trigg County.
Fast-forward to one year later, March 1976. Again Christian County defeated Wallace’s Trigg team in the regional finals. I was a sophomore on that team. All of us in that locker room will never forget Coach’s post game speech. We all knew that Wallace could have been coaching the Colonels instead of us. He simply said, “I want you all to know one thing. I had the opportunity to coach the team in the other dressing room and I could quite possibly be going to state with them. But, I had much rather be going home to Trigg County with you. You are my team and Trigg County is my home!”
Coaching On One Knee
For the four years that I played for Coach Wallace, there was one thing that never changed. Before and after every game, we had a tradition that was never broken. NEVER! The last thing we did before taking the floor was we took a knee and Coach led the team in prayer in the locker room. After the game, win or lose, the last thing we did was Coach prayed in the locker room. What a blessing it was to have a coach as one of your spiritual leaders in life.
The Coach Who Didn’t Cuss
Coach Wallace was definitely the polar opposite of Bobby Knight and coaches who did a lot of cussing. You would be hard pressed to find any player who ever heard Coach Wallace speak the least bit of foul language. About the worst he would say would be something like this one phrase that is etched in my brain. After an errant and ill advised pass he would always philosophically remark, “I shot an arrow in the air, where it landed I did not care. MAKE BETTER PASSES!”
Give Back More Than You Take Out
One of Coach’s greatest attributes is that he gives more than he takes. Testimony to this is the many committees he has served on since retirement. The organizations that he helps and contributions to are nearly endless. Well after his retirement he has helped the school by taking coaching jobs that administrators were having trouble filling. He has served as middle school coach, track coach, and filled various substitute teacher roles, both short and long term.
One of Coach Wallace’s greatest strengths is his consistency. He somehow has always been able to maintain an even keel. This is a tremendous attribute for someone in the coaching profession and the people business.
Next week’s column will wrap up the three part series on Jim Wallace, Coach For Life. I will give you insight as to how others felt about playing for Coach.
Wisdom for the Ages
Last Friday night, I got ejected from a basketball game with Livingston Central. The referee asked to borrow a towel from us for about the third time. He had already thrown out my assistant coach, Rick Chidester for virtually no reason. I simply said. You haven’t given us a call all night. Why don’t you get a towel from them? For that, he ejected me from the game.
That incident reminded me of what someone once told me. When I first started coaching an old coach gave me some sound advice. He said, “Son, always remmember this. Arguing with a referee is like wrestling with a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it.” That is my thought for the day.
OT: My mom had to correct me on last week’s column. I grew up on Wharton Road not Wharton Avenue. She said, “Are you trying to spruce the road up. What will it be next, Wharton Boulevard?”
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
(Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.)