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.
4 COUNTY (CUSTER, BECAUSE COACH ALWAYS QUIZZED US) — Many of the reasons coaches coach is so much less about winning games than it is about creating good people and doing it through sport.
It was that way for dad. And, it is that way for Broken Bow football coach Carlie Wells.
Oh sure, winning makes it more enjoyable, but the lessons on the field can be as impactful when you learn from defeat as well. His Indians lost their first one on Friday to Ord, 28-6.
But, Coach Wells already knew that when I called him back Sunday afternoon to talk about coaching. Those lessons, however, can be taught just as well working on the ranch. Coach has some post holes to dig. As long as it’s with his boys.
See, Carlie Wells and his sons — all four of them — are on the sideline with him now. Three in uniform (Cyrus, Connor and Cal); the youngest — Cobe — the all important ball boy for the Indians.
“I think I kind of always knew I wanted to coach them,” he admits.
But to know how cool that must be for dad, think about growing up and being Carlie Wells’ son. Those four boys have the best childhood and they might not even know it yet. In fact, I am sure they don’t.
Dad won state titles at Elgin Public/Pope John in 2011 and 2012. The Wells boys had an extra set of brothers growing up and never missed a practice. Mom — a nurse — always knew they were safe there.
When dad took the football job out west at the great football town in Grant, they had a shot at another one in 2016. But a late Burwell field goal in the second round of the playoffs ended a dream season and the Longhorns won the whole darn thing.
Cyrus and Connor did what any good coach’s son would do at the end of the game that day. They cried.
“I guess I just kind of always hoped my boys would turn into those guys (I coached) someday,” dad said, “not as football players, but as men.”
In a previous world, Coach Wells was the center for the 1987 Class B Broken Bow state championship football team. My dad was a center, too.
“I don’t know, I just kind of always knew that I wanted to do it,” he said of teaching and coaching.
He lived with four sisters and his mom. He was attracted to coaching by his high school coach, Dan McLaughlin. He wrestled at Nebraska-Kearney for three years and then, as if fate, he got to student teach in Wood River in the early 1990s.
“I learned a lot about football from coach McLaughlin and then from Larry and Carol Frost,” he quipped.
Seems like it would be a good place to start.
So, he learned that even if you have lesser talent you should learn how to run the football. That when you get some talented kids you can throw it some, but, ultimately, the game is won or lost where he played — in the line.
And then we went and built a family and a career. Not worrying about winning and losing so much as turning boys in to good citizens and good men. Now, he gets the chance to do it with his own sons.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “We try not to bring it home to much, but the boys ask questions about what they can do better or how they can improve. It seems like when I get done watching film, then they go right in and start watching it, too.”
In between Grant and Broken Bow, coach Wells tried an administrative position at Anselmo-Merna. He enjoyed it. The people were fantastic. But he missed one thing — coaching.
He found joy again back home, with his boys.
Last Friday night in Broken Bow, I could see a lot of my favorite coach in Carlie Wells.
There are no fancy poster boards signaling in a play on the sideline, he just shuttles the play in with a lineman. Just like dad did.
It was almost as if I could hear dad yelling one of his favorites, “Three things happen when you throw, two of them are bad.” Always brings a smile to my face.
In a few years I bet, Cyrus and Connor will come home and watch Cal and Cobe play. Then, they’ll realize how good they had it. How dad treated them a little bit harder than all their teammates, but it was worth it.
And, how these Friday’s teach you most everything you need to know about life. About the special bond between a coach and all his players, but especially a coach and his son.
The very special years you have together with Coach and Me.
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