Coach and Me: A Voice In The Wind


Coach and Me is a series of stories during the 2021-22 school year that reflect on the relationships between coaches and their children. It will also be a reflection of memories for Tony Chapman and his dad, who passed away July 6, 2021. 

SLOW DOWN SUMMER — Went to see you Monday, coach. Can’t stop missing you. And learning, too. 

It was a busy spring, but the words didn’t come out. We did a lot of chasing down here and hope you were watching. 

Well, I know you were. 

We had our first NSAA medals. In journalism, no doubt. And district track. What do you know? 

We chased to Branson for a national show choir competition. Another winner. But, more importantly, the lessons of teamwork shined through. 

Yeah, we learned more lessons on the stage and an oval. And, I thought about what it meant. And you, and the coaches. 

COACH AND ME: Our Liv had a great mentor in distance coach Rylee Bahe. Their grandpas are probably telling a few stories as they watch. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

I thought about all the stories I tried to write but couldn’t ever get the timing right. But what’s neat is they all ended up getting documented so well. 

The grit and passion and determination of Wahoo’s Mya Emerson. 

The competitive fire of the Jensen boys from York and your favorite high school golf team. The Dukes had a great spring. 

Speaking of fire, some big ones came to see us in southwest Nebraska this spring. It was difficult for some towns; especially Cambridge. And this one story stuck with me. What is leadership?

For football and wrestling coach Catlin Rice the work went overtime for his staff. Five assistants were working almost round the clock to keep the fires contained. 

Moving livestock. Hauling water. You name it, they did it. It even extended to his team. 

Twin brothers Adam and Jacob Corbett and fellow classmate Jordan Ruf were all helping fight these fires too. As junior fire cadets in Edison and Wilsonville. Cambridge suburbs as you would say. 

The fires taught them lessons in leadership. 

On that road trip to Branson, Adam called me and we chatted. His stories of following firefighters into the action were inspiring. His new vision on leadership is appropriate. 

“I don’t think you’ll ever take anything for granted anymore,” he said. “And, you always can go above and beyond what you think you can do. Seeing those firefighters do what they did was amazing.”

Rice sensed a change, too. As a man, as a teacher, as a coach. 

“I am not sure if it has struck anyone yet,” he said of the lessons that could be learned. “Some kids lead by example and some lead in other ways. 

“I probably didn’t understand how you can lead in different ways before the last two weeks (during the fires). But I think now we can see leadership here in a whole different way.”

GRANDPA’S TONGUE: Our Ella — a seventh grader — got her turn at track too this spring. Her tongue, a familiar sight if you knew coach. (nebpreps photo / Tony Chapman)

Maybe in all that wind you wouldn’t shut off this spring there was another lesson to be learned. 

About how to lead in a different way. About doing your best with your friends and teammates. About when to put your head down and go and when to let the wind help you, whether fighting a fire or running a race. 

Those will be lessons we always need down here as we trudge through the summer. Our favorite time. A time to refocus and get better. A time to enjoy each other’s company just for a little bit. 

I hope you keep sending the lessons. The memories. I’ll keep doing my best to share the stories. The life long friendships we all get — just Coach and Me. 

CHEERING SECTION: Ella and mom, Kerry, spent a lot of time right on the fence near the finish line.

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